By Eva McBride
I first encountered Cathy Glasson at an Action Iowa protest in Polk City, IA. She was holding a protest sign and she was protesting with us for Medicare-for-All. I had heard her name thrown around as a possible contender and had looked into her a little bit before she announced. I thought, “I hope she’s authentic.” We have some great male contenders, but women I had talked to in Progressive circles longed to see a strong Progressive female candidate in the field of contenders. The other female candidate for governor left them feeling cold. Having the first elected female governor be a bold Progressive woman would be a striking contrast to Kim Reynolds. After watching all the hollow feminism in the 2016 general election, someone who could walk the walk and not just talk the talk would be refreshing. Personally, I’m a fan of public servants, not politicians. Cathy Glasson did indeed appear to be a bold Progressive.Her showing up at the protest that day piqued my interest even more, and made me feel like the issues she is passionate about could be far from lip service.
Before I met up with her again to actually get a chance to talk to her, I went online to get opinions from Progressive Iowans that know her personally. I got very positive feedback from people who actually know her in person. People mentioned her being a Union organizer and being firm about a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage. I heard phrases like, “Cathy is the real deal.” and “I know she is passionate about her causes.” I’m as skeptical as they come about motivations, but I couldn’t find one person who could say something bad about her. I asked people what they would like to know about her that they don’t know. I set up an interview with her and she was very gracious about making something work.
When we spoke more recently, Cathy referred to the race to the bottom that Iowa is currently engaged in. We’ve starved education, attacked working families with hits to the minimum wage and collective bargaining, our water is polluted, bills to attack choice are being introduced, we’ve privatized Medicaid much to the detriment of our most vulnerable citizens, and our mental health institutions are being shut down—just to name a few issues. I asked Cathy how she saw herself dealing with some of these issues if she became governor. She is concerned about a lack of transparency in Iowa government and she wants to make changes that will let citizens know that they are a priority.
Education- Our schools are starved, our teachers are underpaid, and Iowa is in danger of losing the ability to attract good teachers. She gave an example: Because of hits to collective bargaining, states like Wisconsin have seen a sharp drop in teacher pay. They now average $8,000 less than they did before. Education needs to be a priority in Iowa again so that we can train an educated workforce. Iowa’s fall from the top in education has been drastic. Even if Iowans are able to afford to send their kids to college, there is still often a lot of debt involved. Their children will start out in life already burdened by large student loans. These are all things that concern her.
Minimum wage- Cathy said that we have a low wage economy in Iowa and it hurts everyone. She absolutely supports a $15 dollar minimum wage and will not back down on that. It’s necessary that our citizens be able to make a living wage. It is a priority.
Labor Rights- this one is a no-brainer for Cathy. As a labor leader who organized a union of workers at UIHC, she is obviously already deeply invested in labor rights in Iowa. She would like to encourage laws that don’t benefit corporations solely and strengthen Iowa workers’ rights. She said she wants to be the kind of governor that will model to Iowans that sometimes activism is necessary. She can draw attention to the issue by doing things like joining workers on strike. She hopes to show Iowans how they can get involved and advocate for themselves. I’ve never heard a politician talk like this, and the way she describes herself as an advocate and a leader gives me respect for her priorities. She wants to be more of an activist and representative rather than a politician focused on fundraising for the next campaign.
Water quality- This one is again a no-brainer. Cathy is a member of Iowa CCI Action Fund and is already actively working on this. Water quality issues are extremely important to her and she would like to see a certain percentage of our water cleaner before any more giant Ag operations happen. Hog confinements are the biggest offenders when it comes to water pollution. They are touted as creating jobs but the safety of Iowans is paramount. She told me that there are only three regulators for the whole state as that is another area where funding has been cut. There is no way that three regulators can keep tabs on all the operations in the state and this needs to change. She would also like to be able to educate farmers so they can do simple things to reduce issues like spreading manure on fields later in the year. Doing it too early when the ground is icy means that it ends up in the groundwater instead of being absorbed into the soil.
Healthcare and Mental Health-Cathy is a passionate supporter of Single Payer health care. That would solve all the problems that our current administration has caused in Iowa when it comes to healthcare. Governor Branstad’s closing of mental health institutions and privatizing Medicaid has been disastrous for our most vulnerable Iowans. The Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) that he put in place are not more efficient at doing what they do. Medicaid run by the state had only 3% operating costs and was an efficient system, far from broken. MCOs are concerned with profit and in order to make money, these insurance companies have to reject claims. The privatization of Medicaid here in Iowa has already seen many losing services. People with disabilities, Iowa children, and Iowans with mental health illnesses have been the hardest hit.
Medical Cannabis- Cathy was not afraid to address this issue as she says that a majority of Iowans support this. There is no reason for it not to happen and people who could be helped are suffering right now. She said the most recent bill didn’t go far enough and it didn’t comprehensively cover conditions that should be included but weren’t. She would like to advocate for Iowans who could benefit from this. There is no logical reason to prevent this from happening.
A governor having influence and speaking out about issues that affect Iowa citizens is something she wants to take advantage of. She doesn’t want to play it safe and stay quiet about issues that will hurt or help Iowans. She said that she can’t make laws but she can call out legislators when they make decisions that don’t reflect what’s best for their constituents. As governor, she could insist that any clinics or hospitals receiving government funds would also practice comprehensive women’s healthcare. She could push to reopen hospitals that were closed and provide much-needed care for individuals with mental illnesses. She would use executive orders when necessary to undo previous actions and practices that harm Iowans.
This writer can tell you, as a former case worker for people with disabilities for over a decade and a long time worker and advocate of Iowans with Disabilities, that service cuts and lack of hospital beds are hurting our most vulnerable citizens. I watched it happen and it makes me sad. Iowa families are frightened about what will happen if a loved one needs care. It’s already a difficult process to find beds anywhere nearby for patients needing inpatient mental health services. Now their options are even more limited with many Iowans having to go out of state. It means a lot to me as a citizen of Iowa that Cathy wants to make sure all Iowans have health care.
Cathy sees herself as an action Governor who will lead by example. She is clearly already involved in many causes that work to benefit all Iowans so it doesn’t strike me as pandering. Her desire to work for citizens of Iowa, not corporations, was a running theme in our conversation. She feels that a governor should be working for the success and health of citizens at all times. I feel her desire to not be influenced by corporate interests is admirable. I asked her how she planned to fundraise so that she was getting donations from Iowa Citizens and not relying on large donations. She said she plans to go all over and talk to as many people across the state as she possibly can, and she was very serious about that. She said that if she gets money here and there in smaller donations from people she encounters on the campaign trail, it can add up. She would prefer to avoid pitfalls that come with a conflict of interest. Cathy seems to be someone who has accomplished many things she has set her mind to in the past, and is already a fighter for Iowans in many ways. I feel like those are great examples of what Cathy Glasson can do when she sets her mind on something. If past behavior is a predictor of future behavior then we would be seeing a lot of action and advocacy from her as governor. Her strategies are more thoroughly laid out online. I have provided a link to her Facebook page and website so you can check it out for yourself.