Knoxville — Publisher Jonathan Narcisse of Des Moines unsuccessfully ran a campaign for the Governor's Office in 2010 as an independent. This year, he is giving it another chance as he seeks the Democratic Party nomination.
Narcisse told the Journal-Express that his decision to try again had to meet three criteria. He wanted to ensure that he would be able to build a statewide organization, raise enough money to compete and if he believes he can win. When Rep. Tyler Olson dropped out of the race, Narcisse thought it created an opportunity for him.
"If I were looking at a head-to-head matchup with Tyler Olson, I wouldn't be in this race," Narcisse said.
He called the 2010 race a "learning experience," and he has made adjustments to his campaign strategy in the hopes of becoming more successful. Sen. Jack Hatch is the other Democrat seeking the party's nomination for Governor, but Narcisse believes that Hatch is vulnerable. A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in December showed that Hatch was actually trailing Bob Krause, though Krause has shifted his focus to a 2016 US Senate run.
"I can beat Jack and I can be the nominee for the Democratic Party," Narcisse said. He realizes that politics can be difficult and that some larger media outlets, while serving on the Des Moines School Board, spent time focusing on personal issues and not policies. Nevertheless, Narcisse sees himself as a "protector" for Iowans and believes the Governor should be the one looking out for the people of Iowa.
Narcisse seeks to restore Iowa's government, economy and education. He wants to make appointments based upon qualifications and not cronyism or nepotism, as he says he has seen in government.
In regard to improving the economy of Iowa, and the lives of Iowans, Narcisse believes that taxes are too high, too much taxpayer money is handed out and those who work are being forced to pay for pet projects and paybacks.
"The government's not supposed to give a billion dollars to Company X and let the rest of us pay for it," Narcisse said. He specifically mentioned incentive packages given to Google and Orascom as examples of unfair handouts.
Narcisse recognizes that his fellow Democrats have been critical of Republican Gov. Terry Branstad for these deals, but he adds that they, too, share in the blame. Whatever Branstad has done through the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Democrats who control the Senate have given their agreement. There is nothing Branstad could have done without them, Narcisse said.
"It's about who's going to provide moral, ethical leadership in this state," Narcisse said.
While restoring integrity in government is his main concern, education is still a top priority for Narcisse, who still believes in creating a public education system that provides up to two years of college education, as well as preschool. Education reform and restoring integrity are joined, in that Narcess believes that the educational system in the state has a "massive, bloated bureaucracy," which is equivalent to "white collar welfare."
"Time has come to stop padding the payroll," Narcisse said. He believes that, in districts across the state, there are school superintendents who take care of their friends, associates and colleagues by providing them jobs. He believes that $1.5 billion of taxpayer money could be saved by eliminating some positions, including some in administration.
Narcisse wants to change the way Iowa spends money on education, to help educate children while they are still toddlers. He wants to provide more flexibility for high school students to progress in the educational system at the rate the individual student is able. When told that districts currently offer college-credit courses while in high school, Narcisse believes his system would be better because it would save the student's family money. By keeping students in public education through grade 14, Narcisse believes that students will have adequate vocational training to enter the workforce, or be properly prepared to move on to the university level for their last two years to earn a Bachelor's Degree. Hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved through this process, Narcisse believes.
Not only would the savings create less of a burden on taxpayers and provide more money for other public needs, a better education would aid those who receive public assistance, according to Narcisse.
Another objective of Narcisse's is to restore dignity and compassion to public assistance programs. He believes that neither Hatch nor Branstad realize what compassion is. The way public assistance is doled out now is destructive.
For instance, some of those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) have been known to sell their cards for cash. The cash is used to purchase drugs, which leads to more crime in poor areas of the state. Narcisse suggests requiring the users show identification when using the SNAP cards.
"We're saying, 'Do it ethically,'" Narcisse said. "Your compassion is devastating to my community."
He went on to say, "Compassion is saying we're going to introduce you to the healing effects of work." Narcisse would ask public assistance beneficiaries to perform public works to benefit the community. Not only would the community get this work done, but Narcisse believes that working would instill a sense of pride and purpose in welfare recipients, while also providing recipients with work experience to help them find a job of their own. The goal for Narcisse is to get people off of public assistance.
"I don't want to entitle people," Narcisse said. "I want to empower people."
Real compassion, to Narcisse, is saying, "we will help you, you will help yourself." He is also critical of government-funded housing programs that provide slumlords and developers millions in taxpayer money.
The Democratic Party, according to Narcisse, used to believe in helping others but instead has become a lobby for special interest groups. One example he provides is the Democrats' refusal to adjust the rules for SNAP benefits, to allow the poor to purchase items such as soap, deodorant, etc., while allowing the benefits to be used to buy Monster Energy drinks and Doritos.
Instead of tax increases, as Democrats have often suggested, Narcisse believes the best way to help Iowa families is by allowing them to keep more of their money, spend less time at work and more time with their loved ones.
"Responsible public policy is good for families," Narcisse said. The problem is, he believes politicians are not interested in raising the poor out of poverty. Instead, they choose to exploit the less fortunate.
In closing, Narcisse believes he can defeat Hatch, then Branstad. He believes that any day of the year, he can get 10 percent of the Republican vote. One obstacle he faces to get the nomination to face Branstad is Hatch's strong support from Polk County Democratic insiders.
"Branstad's strength is that he wins," Narcisse said. "I know there are Republicans who would vote Narcisse."
For more information, visit http://www.narcisseforiowa.com.