DES MOINES | State Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines entered the governor’s race Monday with promises to raise the minimum wage and protect the environment if elected.
His speech, made in a vacant lot outside an old industrial site on the outskirts of downtown Des Moines, was the first of more than 20 scheduled stops the Hatch campaign will make around the state in the coming days.
During a brief stop at Sioux Gateway Airport on Monday evening, Hatch, speaking later by phone, said he told a crowd of about 15 people that he would deliver on the promise to widen all of U.S. Highway 20 across the state. The project, started 50 years ago, still needs to be completed in western Iowa.
He also he'll go after every vote in the heavily Republican northwest corner of the state in his quest to win the governor's seat.
"There’s so much potential in Northwest Iowa for Iowans to participate in an economic recovery," he said, pointing to manufacturing and the renovation of older buildings in Sioux City for modern, high-tech industry.
In Des Moines, sharply critical of what he called Gov. Terry Branstad’s “arrogance of power,” Hatch, 63, portrayed himself as a populist fighter against an out-of-touch administration.
"I will keep fighting the big guy on behalf of the little guy everywhere, anywhere, all the time," he said. "That's why I am in public service. That is my responsibility."
Branstad, 66, has not officially announced his candidacy for governor, but he has had a re-election team in place since early this summer.
That apparatus was busy Monday sending out news releases touting what it described as economic development successes in cities that coincide with the stops on Hatch’s announcement tour.
In a telephone call to reporters Monday morning from India, Branstad criticized Hatch’s economic development credentials.
“He’s voted against a lot of things that we think are critically important to grow this state’s economy,” Branstad said. “But my role is not to get involved in the Democratic primary. Let the Democratic primary voters decide who their candidate should be. I think there’ll be plenty of time once the primary is over to discuss the issues.”
Hatch countered by saying the governor’s economic development philosophy consists of giving “sweetheart deals to corporate giants outside of Iowa” and specifically mentioned the billion-dollar Iowa Fertilizer Company facility being built in Wever by Orascom Construction of Egypt. The company hammered out a deal to get more than $100 million in state incentives, $300 million in federal bonds and another $133 million in local tax abatements.
It is expected to employ 165 workers, but, advocates say, support industries will bring several ancillary businesses.
“I believe vibrant neighborhoods and small towns are places where young people launch their lives, where families begin and where individual Iowans put their small business dreams into action,” Hatch, a real estate developer, said. “My goal is to grow more thriving small businesses in Iowa. … My goal is to invest in our Iowa entrepreneurs and grow the next generation of high-tech businesses right here.”
Asked to elaborate on his higher minimum wage proposal, Hatch said only that he would like to raise it incrementally over several years.
Also asked by reporters about the health of his fundraising, Hatch would not say, nor would he criticize Rep. Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids, who announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in July.
Olson’s camp sent out a news release welcoming Hatch to the race.
“We are going to win this primary because we are going after Terry Branstad,” Hatch said.