Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, believes Iowa needs a fresh perspective. He said he believes he can connect with young voters and spur the state into the next 30 years. That's why the 37-year-old announced his vie for the governor's seat in 2014 Tuesday, making stops in his hometown, Des Moines, and Mason City.
"Iowa has a lot of opportunity in front of us. Iowa needs some new leadership," Olson said.
Olson said Iowa is coming to the end of a 30-year cycle of development and needs to start thinking about its direction for the next 30 years. Instead of focusing on the "big fish," he said Iowa needs to take a broader approach to economic development, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.
Iowa is a welcoming state, he said, with a reputation for openness. The state needs leadership that continues to foster a welcoming atmosphere, encouraging diversity. The state's natural resources can help bolster economic development, he added.
"Iowa needs to be a place where you can dream it, build it, grow it and keep it," he said.
Infrastructure such as making broadband Internet widely available will also prove instrumental in drawing innovators to the state, he said. Many people look at where they want to live before searching for employment. Making the state attractive to those people will help draw them here, he said.
Branstad has focused too much on luring large corporations to the state and has lost sight of thinking about topics in a variety of ways, Olson said. This idea also plays into education. Iowa needs to move away from standardized testing, instead opting for ways to gauge skills such as critical thinking and team work. The governor should acknowledge that each child learns at a different rate.
Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said Olson shares many of his views on early childhood education.
"I know he cares about education. He understands," Sodders said. "That stuff carries through that child's life, through their entire career, and I think Olson understands that."
Voters electing Olson could prove to be a benefit for early education proponents such as himself and Olson, Sodders said. As governor, Olson would be able to use political clout to affect policy to increase funding and access to early education avenues such as preschool.
A website launched by the Democratic Party, Iowaproblemcauser.com, claims Branstad impedes early childhood development by having proposed cutting state-funded preschool programs.
But Branstad isn't likely to be easily beaten; the governor has won all 12 races for which he has sought election and has already amassed $2 million in campaign contributions.
Olson will face off against Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, in the November primary. Sodders has not announced an endorsement of either candidate.
Branstad has also recently come under heavy fire for refusing to reprimand Iowa Veterans Home Commandant David Worley in response to harsh accusations that he harasses, intimidates and cajoles employees and residents. The governor has previously said Democrats are "playing politics," and while he takes such allegations seriously, from what he has seen, Worley does a fine job.
Olson did not answer questions as to whether he would remove Worley if elected or would have handled the situation at IVH differently than Branstad, saying only that ensuring veterans' comfort is a high priority and such a principal would guide any decision regarding IVH leadership.
"Our veterans deserve a high-quality environment," he said. "I would do all I could to make sure that is the case."
Olson is the vice president of Paulson Electric, and he is serving his fourth term in the Iowa House.