Hatch taps Monica Vernon as running mate

Cedar Rapids businesswoman to pursue lieutenant governor seat

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June 17, 2014 | 8:32 am

Joining his call for a return to competence and trustworthiness in state government, a “pleased … proud … excited” Monica Vernon joined Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch in his bid for a fresh start.

“I’m here today because I think Iowans are looking for a change at the top,” the four-term Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman said after Hatch announced her as his running mate. “And like me, they want a fresh start.”

It was an easy choice, Hatch, a 22-year state legislator and property developer, said at a Tuesday news conference at the IBEW 405 union hall in southwest Cedar Rapids.

“I want to make something very clear: There is not a person that I would rather have on my team running for lieutenant governor than Monica Vernon,” said Hatch, 64.

Hatch, who has known Vernon, 56, since he proposed building affordable housing in Cedar Rapids prior to the 2008 flood, praised her ability to meet the dual challenges of running her own business while she and her husband raised three daughters and helping guide the city in the aftermath of the flood.

“I saw for two-and-a-half years how this city was led out of darkness of a devastated (sic) flood and one of the people who led that charge was Monica Vernon,” Hatch said.

“There was one person who I saw at neighborhood meetings, at city council meetings, planning meetings,” he continued. “When I went to the temporary city hall, Monica always was there.”

For her part, Vernon praised Hatch as someone who keeps his word. He developed two affordable housing projects after the flood – when other developers wouldn’t get involved, Vernon said.

His projects in the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood are “icons for our recovery,” she said.

“Jack has never let me down,” Vernon said, and “he hasn’t let down the people of Cedar Rapids.”

That gives her confidence Hatch can “do this kind of economic development and redevelopment for cities all over Iowa and I want to be part of that team.”

Hatch plans to draw on Vernon’s business acumen. The lifelong Iowan was founder and president of Vernon Research for 26 years before selling to The Gazette Company, publisher of The Cedar Rapids Gazette, in 2013. She also earned a MBA from the University of Iowa while running her business and has been an adjunct professor there.

Hatch noted Inc. magazine rated Iowa “dead last” for the number of women-owned businesses. With Vernon’s help, he said, his administration will “make Iowa a mecca for women and minorities to expand their thoughts and follow their dreams.”

“That’s what we really mean when we talk about ‘We mean business,’” he said.

Vernon is “one of the most capable women in government … who understands what it means to go into the neighborhoods and the board rooms, go to Washington, talk to our delegation and defend and promote the necessary programs that will rebuild this state,” Hatch said.

Vernon brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in government, business and community action to the campaign, she said. She wants to draw on her market research background to help get “more things from our research institutions out of the laboratory to the production floor and out to the globe.”

Her work on flood recovery taught her “tremendous lessons – how to work within your community, with the county, with the state and with the feds.”

She also has extensive experience in community groups such as the Junior League and the charter commission that recommended Cedar Rapids change from a commission form of government to a mayor-council form.

“So I’ve been part of a lot of different change activities, moving forward activities,” Vernon told reporters.

The Branstad campaign was quick to respond and establish its own www.HatchVernon.com website to highlight the Democratic team’s “gold-plated promise to raise taxes and return us to Culver-era deficits and mismanagement.”

“We look forward to the clear contrast between the Branstad-Reynolds ticket that understands working Iowans’ concerns versus the Hatch-Vernon ticket that is a fresh restart to the failed Culver policies leading to high unemployment, massive deficits and reckless budget cuts,” said Branstad-Reynolds campaign manager Jake Ketzner.

However, State Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic, D-Waterloo, who ran against Vernon in the five-way U.S. House 1st District Democratic primary, thinks Vernon’s background in business and job creation will help reinforce Hatch’s message of creating long-term jobs in Iowa. Vernon finished second in the June 4 primary with 24 percent of the vote to State Rep. Pat Murphy’s 37 percent.

“I think it will be a good ticket Democrats can get behind,” Kajtazovic said.

Kajtazovic said since Vernon is seen as a moderate, adding her to the ticket also helps reinforce Hatch’s message that he wants to work with everyone and offer a fresh, new perspective, as his campaign ads have suggested.

For more on Vernon, visit http://jackhatch.com/meet-monica-vernon/.

The Waterloo Courier contributed to this report.

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