DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — After a potential rival dropped out of the primary race Thursday, Democratic candidate for governor Jack Hatch looked increasingly like he will be his party's best option to take on popular Gov. Terry Branstad in November.
Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, was endorsed by former Democratic lawmaker Bob Krause, who had been considering a run for governor. Another Democratic candidate — Cedar Rapids legislator Tyler Olson — dropped out of the race last month for personal reasons. One other Democrat, little-known Paul Dahl of Webster City, remains in the race.
"It certainly appears now that Jack Hatch will be our nominee," said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan, while noting that another candidate could still enter the race before the March filing deadline
Hatch, 63, will have to rally support and enthusiasm for a likely race against Branstad, a 67-year-old Republican who's expected to run for an unprecedented sixth non-consecutive term. Branstad has strong approval ratings and is touting property tax cuts, education investments and a decline in unemployment as key accomplishments. He's known as a ferocious campaigner who's never lost a race, besting many top Iowa Democrats in previous elections.
Some of the state's top Democrats, including the largest union in Iowa, had been supporting Olson, a 37-year-old who had framed himself as a fresh, young alternative to Branstad. Hatch obviously can't fill that profile. But state Sen. Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said he thinks Democrats can get excited about Hatch, citing his support for expanding low-income health care as an example of his liberal policy record.
"Tyler brought a lot of potential to the race. He was very exciting. It was turning the page, a new generation," said Hogg, who had endorsed Olson. "But Iowans have a U.S. Senator who just turned 80 years old and said he was going to run again. I think people will get excited about Sen. Hatch."
Hatch said he would present himself as a progressive option for Iowans, with a focus on such issues as college affordability and health care access.
"These policies (Branstad) has created have really not focused on the middle class, but on the upper class. It's enhancing the middle class that this campaign is going to focus on," Hatch said.
Krause said he decided to exit the race because a competitive primary would be costly, making it harder for the victor to succeed in a general election. He said he plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has said he will seek another term.