Norris, Glasson seek union backing after Boulton exit

'Iowans are more interested today than they were yesterday,' Norris says

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Norris shakes hands with Orville Townsend as he greets Townsend and his wife, Bill
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Norris shakes hands with Orville Townsend as he greets Townsend and his wife, Bille, at a Thursday evening house party in Coralville. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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The dynamics have changed in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, and John Norris thinks primary election voters are starting to break his way.

“Iowans are more interested today than they were yesterday,” Norris told more than 75 supporters at a Thursday evening house party hosted by Coralville City Council member Mitch Gross and his wife, Melanie.

Without naming state Sen. Nate Boulton, who suspended his campaign Thursday after three women accused him of sexual misconduct, Norris said the Democratic Party is in a “time of crisis.”

“The question is how do we move the ball forward,” he said. “How do we educate our young people and change the next generation … to send a message that discrimination of any kind is damaging to all of us.”

Norris, who served as Gov. Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff, worked for Sen. Tom Harkin and held posts in energy and agricultural agencies at the state, federal and international level, ran through a litany of woes facing the state.

The lack of mental health services for adults and children, unsustainable agricultural practices, the privatization of Medicaid management and low-wage economic development strategies are among his concerns.

Asked what legislation he would pursue first if elected governor this fall, Norris said he would attack low wages and poverty. He called for a higher minimum wage, access to job skills programs and targeting high-wage industries.



A $15-per-hour minimum wage was on Democratic contender Cathy Glasson’s agenda, too, during a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids.

She also addressed the allegations against Boulton. Glasson was the first member of the Democratic field to say Boulton’s actions disqualified him from serving as the party’s nominee and has been harsh in her criticism.

“We need a governor we can trust to stand up and fight for fair treatment for all Iowa women every day,” she said in a fundraising appeal. “It’s clear that Nate Boulton doesn’t deserve that trust. His behavior disqualifies him from leading our state government.”

She has made a play for his supporters, inviting them to join her “bold, progressive” campaign for single-payer universal health care, a $15 minimum wage, union rights and tough new gun laws.

“I’d be truly honored to have the support of all Iowa Democrats who share those values,” the Coralville nurse and union president said.


Norris also is hoping to win labor’s support. Although he doubts any unions that previously backed Boulton will endorse another candidate before the June 5 primary, Norris was encouraged by their support during conversations Thursday.

“A number of them are going to start expressing support,” he said. “They know my history” of working for labor interests and priorities for 30 years.

Even with Boulton’s exit and Des Moines retired businessman Fred Hubbell’s lead in polls, Norris thinks the possibility of the nomination being determined at a party convention remains strong.


“If he were a good candidate, the race would be over,” Norris said, reminding the crowd that Hubbell has spent about $6 million. He attributed Hubbell’s support to aggressive television advertising.

“We’re going to continue our positive message,” Norris said.


The Democratic gubernatorial candidates will meet for one more debate Wednesday at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.

KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register will host the debate that will be broadcast live on KCCI from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and livestreamed on the Register website.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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