John Norris

John Norris speaks Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids as he campaigns for the Iowa Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — Harvey Ross was excited to see John Norris enter the race for the Democratic nomination for governor “as the person with the best resume of the bunch.”

But he told Norris on Tuesday evening that resumes don’t win races.

“No doubt Hillary (Clinton) had a far better resume than Donald Trump and Al Gore had a far better understanding of the issues than (George) W. Bush,” the Democratic activist from Cedar Rapids said.

Norris, making his first visit to Cedar Rapids as a candidate, agreed “we learned in November 2016 you can’t win on experience alone.”

But “experience should matter … not just for getting to govern and knowing how to get stuff done, but how to get there in a campaign.”

Norris, 58, a fifth-generation Iowan, grew up on a farm near Red Oak where he learned hard work wasn’t an option, according to his wife, Jackie, who introduced him to 30-some people at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 110, which represents workers at Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids.

After earning degrees at Simpson College and the University of Iowa Law School, Norris worked for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin; ran then-presidential candidate Jesse Jackson’s Iowa caucus campaign; chaired the Iowa Democratic Party; served as Gov. Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff; worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; served as a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member; and represented U.S. agricultural policy at the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program in Rome during the Obama administration. He returned to Iowa as co-owner of the State Public Policy Group in Des Moines.

Now he’s on a six-day, 22-event tour of Iowa to kick off his campaign for the Democratic nomination. He joins an already crowded field: former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn, Sen. Nate Boulton of Des Moines, former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, former Des Moines school board President Jon Neiderbach, Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City, Coralville nurse and union president Cathy Glasson and Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell are running or contemplating a bid for the Democratic nomination.

On the GOP side, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett say they’re running.

At the heart of his campaign, Norris said, is caring “passionately about the things that I believe Iowans care about,” including clean water, changing the culture of farming to protect the environment, supporting education, undoing the state privatization of Medicaid and making the judicial system the default provider of mental health services, he said in a speech.

More than any one issue, however, Norris said his campaign is about “contesting the power of a few with the power of many.”

“Our future is eroding because we have a government today that is more interested in serving a few (with) sweetheart deals and special tax cuts for wealthy corporations instead of working for the people.” he said, “That’s what’s going to define our future — reclaiming our government, one that reflects the values we hold dear as Iowans and are willing to fight for.”