Freshman Iowa Lawmaker Kicks Off Gubernatorial Campaign

By John Celock

Four months into his first term in public office, an Iowa state senator has kicked off his bid to become the nation’s youngest governor.

State Sen. Nate Boulton announced Thursday that he was entering the 2018 Democratic primary for governor, using a web video centered on him jogging. Boulton, a 36-year-old workers’ rights attorney professionally, is positioning himself as a progressive, union oriented candidate in what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field to oppose Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds next year.

“I grew up in a proud union family in small town Iowa,” Boulton said in the video. “I cannot sit by while Republicans attack working Iowans.”

Boulton’s video was interspersed with news coverage of his unsuccessful battles in the Senate this year against outgoing Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on such issues as reducing collective bargaining for government employees and changes to the state workers compensation system.

Reynolds is expected to succeed Branstad in the coming weeks after Branstad is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the nation’s next ambassador to China. Boulton took aim at Branstad’s coming position in the Trump Administration in his video, painting Reynolds and Branstad as allies of the president.

“Now together with Trump they are threatening what we value most as Iowans,” Boulton said of the six-term governor and his successor.

Boulton did not identify which specific values he said that Branstad and Reynolds are targeting with Trump. Reynolds has said that she plans to seek a full term as governor next year.

Boulton was first elected to the state Senate last year and is joining a field currently dominated by those who have been in Iowa politics longer. Boulton is playing up that his time in the Senate is not his first exposure to state politics, noting his 2012 victory in state Supreme Court, which ruled several of Branstad’s vetoes of workers compensation proposals were unconstitutional.

Boulton, the son and grandson of union leaders, said that he wanted to focus on education, rural economic development, workers and the environment if elected governor.

Boulton is the youngest of four 30-something Democrats who have launched gubernatorial campaigns in 2018. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, 37, is seeking Florida’s governorship, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, 37, is seeking Connecticut’s governorship and state House Minority Leader Scott Inman, 38, is seeking the governorship in Oklahoma. On the GOP side, 31-year-old Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason is considered a bid for governor in his state.

Current and likely Republican gubernatorial candidates next year include two elected officials in their early 40s who started off at young ages. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, 41, a potential candidate for New York governor, was 18 when he was elected as a village trustee in 1994 and 19 when he elected Tivoli mayor the following year. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, 42, who just entered the 2018 Florida race, was 22 when he was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1996.

In the 2017 gubernatorial match-ups in Virginia and New Jersey, 42-year-old former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in Virginia, is the youngest candidate. Last year, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D), 40, dropped his planned bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in New Jersey.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), 42, who is seeking reelection next year, is the nation’s youngest governor. Perriello is one month older than Sununu, while Putnam is four months older than New Hampshire’s chief executive.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles (R), 33, is the nation’s youngest statewide elected official, while Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R), 29, is the youngest statewide official in the nation.

Boulton enters the Iowa Democratic gubernatorial primary following former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, state Rep. Todd Prichard, former Des Moines Board of Education President Jon Neiderbach and Polk County Conservation Director Rick Leopold.

Boulton tied his announcement into his running theme by asking others to join him.

“I’m a runner and I’ve finished dozens of marathons but I cannot run this alone,” he said. “Together we can build a better Iowa.”