DES MOINES — Rep. Tyler Olson has set his sights on the chairmanship of the Iowa Democratic Party, but the Cedar Rapids Democrat isn’t taking his eye off the party’s nomination for governor in 2014.
Olson, who is serving his fourth term in the Iowa House, has been talking to party leaders about succeeding Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky of Coralville, who has endorsed Olson.
“I like the idea of once again going outside Polk County and really looking broadly at the amount of talent that we have got in this state,” Dvorsky told Radio Iowa.
A retired teacher from Coralville, Dvorsky has been the party’s chairwoman since June 2010.
Olson thinks he has the support of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and has been discussing the chairmanship with members of the party’s State Central Committee, who will choose a new chair Jan. 26.
“I’ve put in a lot of legwork on it and talked with virtually all the Central Committee members, and I feel good enough about it that I’m going to go to the meeting,” Olson said.
He’s not aware that anyone else is seeking the leadership post.
That’s not the case with the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The list of potential candidates includes not only Olson, but U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines and former Gov. Chet Culver.
Olson said the same thought process applies to his consideration of a gubernatorial bid as seeking the party leadership post.
“I think there is a place for leadership in this state that understands the world has changed, particularly in the last 30 years,” he said.
That’s a reference to Gov. Terry Branstad, who is expected to seek a sixth term and who first became governor in 1983.
“We need leadership that understands that,” Olson said. “If we do, we have an opportunity for unprecedented growth.”
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That will require taking a “bigger picture approach” to priorities such as education and economic development.
For example, he said, “typically, the education debate is centered around allowable growth only. We get stuck in some of those patterns.”
Economic development “is not just hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives,” he added.
“We have some opportunity to change the way we do business,” Olson said. The state needs to look at priorities “through a lens that reflects the realities in today’s economy.”
Election to the party chairmanship will not end Olson’s consideration of a run for governor.
“There are obviously a lot of folks who will make decisions about what they are going to do in 2014 over the next few months,” he said. “After that shakes out, people will have to decide what opportunities to take advantage of.”
Olson and others have until March 2014 to put their name on the primary election ballot.