by Pat Rynard
State Senator Nate Boulton rallied a crowd of labor members, Democratic activists and students at a pre-session event last night in Des Moines. Speaking at an IBEW union hall, the gubernatorial candidate who gained statewide prominence for his leadership on last year’s collective bargaining bill warned what may be in store for the 2018 legislative session.
“What’s next? They’re talking about education savings accounts,” Boulton said to a crowd of about 75 people. “They’re talking about raiding the security of IPERS. They’re talking about tax cuts to worsen the problem in this state. Think about what we could be doing. Instead of funding projects like Apple for $20 million, why aren’t we investing in 266 main street grants?”
A lot of uncertainty surrounds what the full Republican agenda for the this year’s session, which begins next week, fully includes. Governor Kim Reynolds, Speaker Linda Upmeyer and Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix have been tight-lipped over their legislative priorities, much as they were at this point last year before unleashing a wide-ranging conservative plan that drastically changed how the state is run.
Democrats and their allies hope the intense backlash seen during the 2017 session will carry over into this election year, eventually resulting in the ousting of Reynolds and at least one of the Republican majorities in the Statehouse.
“We can’t get outrage fatigue,” Boulton cautioned. “We can’t back down from these tough fights that are ahead. We have to make sure our voices are louder than ever this legislative session and this election year. We have to make sure our brothers and sisters in the labor movement never get distracted again. That they understand their quality of life, their livelihood is on the ballot this year.”
Boulton was right in the middle of many of the most contentious legislative fights last year. That helped boost the start of his statewide campaign, as many activists saw him up close in a leadership role as they flooded the Statehouse during many different protests. It also got him on television a lot, something that will likely happen again over the next few months, giving him an advantage in media coverage just as the primary heats up ahead of the June 5 election.
“We saw thousands come to the Capitol for the Women’s March, for the March for Teachers, we had people lining the rotunda for that public sector bargaining rally,” Boulton noted. “Legislators heard over and over again what the real priorities of Iowans were, and they weren’t living up to them. And we’re going to make sure, this legislative session, that they hear it again.”
The senator from Des Moines is holding 13 rallies like the one last night across the state before the Legislature gavels in next week. Some of them will be headed up by fellow legislators who have endorsed Boulton. Labor was a major part of their Wednesday event, as many union members see their future most at stake if Democrats are unable to retake some control of Iowa government. Over 30 local unions have endorsed Boulton.
“Next week, the attacks on Iowa values will begin again,” warned IBEW member Patrick Wells at the rally. “We are very fortunate to have Senator Boulton in there fighting for us … Nate is going to lead us to victory in November, and we will have his back.”