IOWA CITY — Four Democrats hoping to the Iowa’s next governor laid out ambitious plans for the state beginning with the defeat of the five-term incumbent who never has lost an election.

The good news, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan told almost 200 Johnson County Democrats Sunday afternoon at the local party’s fall barbecue is Gov. Terry Branstad is vulnerable.

“He can be beaten,” Brennan said.

The four hopefuls for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Sen. Jack Hatch and Bob Krause, both of Des Moines, Rep. Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids and Paul Dahl of Webster City, agreed, but only if Democrats field the right candidate.

Dahl, the latest to enter the race, introduced himself as the candidate with the education, work and life experience and energy “to make Iowa a better state than it is under Branstad.”

His experience includes working as a middle manager in state government, a librarian, bus driver, pastor and adjunct professor of ethics.

The Democratic nominee will need a “sense of ethics to call Mr. Branstad on ethical issues.”

Dahl also warned against nominating either Hatch of Olson. The former has “skeletons in his closet” that will be exploited by the Branstad campaign, Dahl said.

And Olson, he said, “is too young at 37 to be governor.”

Olson didn’t address the age issue — directly. Instead he said he’s the candidate who understands the future

The election, said Olson, a four-term House member, is about whether Iowa will continue the past 30 years in a sixth Branstad term or embrace the next 30 years.

“We need a candidate that is a clear break from the past … a totally different perspective in the governor’s office,” Olson said.

Simply running on the best policies Democrats have to offer won’t be enough. “We need a governor that understands the pace of the change that’s happening.”

Saying he felt “unbridled” speaking in the “People’s Republic of Johnson County, Hatch said the 2014 election is the next 30 years and the next 30 days.

He suggested it might be time for Democrats to take the GOP’s advice and run government like a business.

Branstad, he said, is “CEO of a company he doesn’t like, has employees he despises, offers services he’d rather not give to customers he’d rather forget.”

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

The logical business decision, Hatch said, would be to fire Branstad.

Over the next month, Hatch plans to roll out proposals to change tax policies to tax the rich more and the middle class “a lot less.”

He called for new clean water policies to address “the mess our ag community should manage” and make state funds available for conservation practices.

He wants to expand early childhood education and, for college students, offer bachelor’s degree in three years rather than four and restructure financial aid to lower students’ college debt.

It’s no surprise that the state’s college graduates leave for greener pastures, Krause said. With high tuition and debt loads and low entry-level salaries, they can’t afford to stay.

The problem, he said, is the price of a McDonalds’ hamburger. The difference in a price of a McDonalds’ burger in the United States and Australia is 6 cents, he said, but the minimum wage there is $14.50 — “almost a living wage” of $30,160 a year for a full-time worker.

“We need to increase minimum wage and increase it in a substantial way,” Krause said. That’s just a start to “raising the entire water level” of Iowans’ incomes.

That’s because incomes affect more than pocketbooks, Krause said. The former Waterloo school board member said studies show that children from low-income homes score about 20 percentage points lower on standardized tests.

Iowa cannot do economic development, educational reform or environmental improvement “unless we first address incomes,” Krause said.