Cathy Glasson, who up until now had been running an exploratory campaign, formally announced her official candidacy Tuesday evening in Cedar Rapids, with simultaneous events in seven additional Iowa towns. The announcement kicked off a Day of Action, with volunteers striking out in those towns to knock on doors on behalf of her campaign.
Glasson, 58, is the president of SEIU Local 199, which represents nurses, health care workers and school support employees across Iowa. She is among seven Democrats seeking the party’s nomination and recently wrapped up a 100-day listening tour that took her around the state, talking to people about the challenges they face. Glasson said that by listening to Iowans she hopes to be able to engage with people across party lines.
“I’m an organizer and I think the first thing you do is listen, and that’s what this tour was about, really listening; and then trying to understand the pain that people feel and what they are looking for, for the change that they feel needs to happen,” she said in an interview with Little Village. “Then talking about the best way that that needs to happen in a way that’s respectful and not threatening and is coming from a compassionate, caring perspective.”
Both during the interview and at the podium Tuesday evening, Glasson hammered home the series of the nearly mantra-like goals at the center of her campaign: the $15/hr. minimum wage; strengthening unions; universal single-payer healthcare; clean water; increasing funding for public education; and making higher education affordable for Iowa students, including providing access to free community college for Iowans.
“At the end of the day, we have more in common than we have differences and that’s because if you focus on what really matters, it doesn’t make any difference whether you live in a rural community, an urban community, whether you are a Democrat, independent or a Republican,” she said. “When you just ask people how things are going and focus on issues that matter, you’d be amazed at the similarities — that’s all there are, are similarities.”
She said many people she spoke to work two or more jobs to make ends meet and struggle with the expense of healthcare and childcare.
“We should not wait to raise the minimum wage for seven or 10 years. Our campaign is really bold, progressive and change can’t happen fast enough,” she said.
She said one of the key tasks of a governor is raising the standard of living for all Iowans, and she criticized some of the recent actions taken by the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds, which she said hurt everyday Iowans — including gutting collective bargaining rights, attacking women’s healthcare and moving forward with privatized Medicaid and reduced mental health facilities.
Glasson also criticized a recent deal made with Apple, in which the state offered $213 million in state and local incentives to entice Apple to move a data center to Waukee. Apple is expected to invest $1.3 billion in the venture. The center will create about 50 permanent jobs.
A campaign ad created by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign last week focused on the Apple center. Although the ad cites a 1,700 job figure, Apple’s press release lists 550 temporary, construction jobs to build the center, in addition to the 50 long-term jobs.
The Republican Party of Iowa followed up with attack ads this week, blasting Democratic candidates Glasson, Fred Hubbell and Nate Boulton for their criticism of the project. However, that criticism isn’t limited to Iowa Democrats.
Not convinced today's announced incentives of $400k per job is good value for Iowa taxpayers. @BusinessIOWA
— Pat Grassley (@PatGrassley) August 24, 2017
Iowa Rep. Pat Grassley criticized the plan in a tweet on the day of the announcement, saying that he was unconvinced that the cost to Iowa of $400,000 per job was a good value. He followed it up with tweets about the need for tax reform, starting with a review of tax credits.
Glasson criticized the attack ad as diverting attention from problems facing Iowans.
“I think spending their time on attacking candidates that want to rebuild a strong, progressive Iowa is foolish,” she said.
This year, Iowa has fallen about $350 million short of expected revenues, leading to budget cuts and adjustments, including cuts that have defunded programs for sexual and domestic violence survivors, slashed higher education funding and removed protections for people in Iowa nursing homes.
Glasson said that she thinks raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and supporting unions would help to generate revenues by increasing incomes and would provide an added benefit of helping to get low-wage workers off of government assistance. She also said Iowa needs to examine corporate tax breaks and ask whether they are helping to create jobs or are money that could be used to invest in schools and healthcare.
During the Tuesday campaign kick-off, Jean Miller, a retired nurse, spoke on behalf of the candidate. Miller, has known Glasson for over 20 years and worked alongside her as they fought to organize their fellow nurses at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Miller introduced Glasson at the event, saying she believes in Glasson’s ability to govern the state of Iowa using the skills gained as a union leader.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness,’” she said of learning that Glasson was planning to run for governor. “On the one hand I wasn’t surprised, but on the other hand I was, just knowing the energy and time and commitment it takes to run a campaign like this. But, really, I’m not surprised that she was willing to put herself out there and help to move our state forward.”
Lindsey Ellickson, of Cedar Rapids, who appeared in a campaign video aired during the event, said she was excited to see a woman running on a progressive platform in Iowa.
“She talked about childcare and, having a kid, I understand how that can impact you, and can impact what jobs you can take, and just how expensive it can be,” Ellickson said.
The event was livestreamed in Iowa City, Sioux City, Des Moines, Waterloo, Davenport, Ames and Burlington, and was followed by a canvassing event in each town.
“A lot of people probably don’t know her,” Deb Burns, of Cedar Rapids, said before heading out to knock on doors. “I think everyone needs to come and hear her speak. It gets you so motivated.”
“I’m for everything that she represents. We need a good leader, we need someone who works for us,” Burns added.