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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Norris discusses potential gubernatorial bid

By Christina Crippes, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier | May 17, 2017

CEDAR FALLS –– When John Norris came back to Iowa to raise his children, after serving in the previous presidential administration, it wasn’t what he expected.

“It’s just become very clear to me that we’re on a path here that is not the state that I was planning on raising my kids in,” Norris said during a stop at University of Northern Iowa on Tuesday to meet with labor leaders. “How can you do that much damage in four months that really begins to erode that hope and vision you have for the state?”

Norris, 58, is wrapping up a statewide tour talking to Iowans before making a decision on whether he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

Norris most recently served as the United States’ representative to the United Nations in Rome in President Barack Obama’s administration, but he’s got a long history in Democratic circles, including as former Gov. Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff and Iowa Democratic Party chairman.

He knows the Democrats vying for governor -- about a half-dozen have announced they’re running or considering a bid -- will largely bring the same message about undoing much of what was done during the 2017 session where Republicans had total control.

But he sees his background and experience -- not only as chief of staff but being active in progressive politics -- as giving Iowans confidence he can win and then get the job done.

“It’s not just about having a vision for Iowa; it’s the ability to get it done,” Norris said. “The future of this state and our kids is just too near and dear, too important to me to not step up. I think I have something to offer.”

Norris said he plans a family canoe trip over the Memorial Day weekend where he’ll talk with his family before announcing whether he’ll run in early June.

Norris is practical about what can be achieved if he would be elected and acknowledges goals like restoring collective bargaining rights, re-funding Planned Parenthood and improving water quality will be blocked if Democrats do not have a majority in both the House and the Senate after the 2018 election.

“The campaign for this doesn't end in 2018; the campaign for our future is what the governor should lead,” Norris said to a crowd of about 15 people at UNI.

Norris expressed frustration during the hour-long meeting not just with the agenda Republicans enacted during the 2017 session but with the special interests he sees as calling the shots.

“That’s the common theme running through everything that’s happening is this is all about special interest favors,” Norris said. “I know Iowans did not sign up for the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda they got, even a lot of Republicans are upset.”

Sarah Eastman, who is active in progressive groups in the Cedar Valley, said she was glad to hear Norris talk through how he would achieve his goals.

“I’m very excited to hear anybody who is willing to say not just what we need to do, but how we’re going to manage to get it done. I’m a little sad that that’s not everybody’s message,” Eastman said, before asking him how he’d restore education funding, particularly for UNI.

Norris said he is working on a plan for education, but he believes the state needs to invest in it. He said some of education funding could come through rolling back some property tax breaks and other tax credits for large corporations.

Norris said his top priorities would be to first rollback much of what passed in 2017, before tackling a minimum-wage hike, a 10-year plan to get Iowa’s education system to be among the top in the nation and vision for rural Iowa to grow the economy and build on the quality of life.

“I’m telling Iowans that we can do better than we’re doing now, and we can be better. We can be better to each other and we can do better as a community if we stick together,” Norris said.

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