CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon is back on the campaign trail.
Vernon was introduced Tuesday morning in Cedar Rapids as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch’s choice for lieutenant governor.
“If there was ever a time for someone who knows how to make government work, this is it,” Hatch said in announcing his choice on his website, http://jackhatch.com/.
The duo is expected to make several public appearances around the state in the days leading up to the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention Saturday, where Vernon is expected to be ratified as the party’s nominee.
Then Hatch and Vernon will hit the road again Saturday afternoon, traveling with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.
Vernon, who June 4 lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District, seems to have the mix of private sector experience and public service that businessman-legislator Hatch was seeking.
Vernon, who with her attorney husband, Bill, raised three daughters, worked in public information, marketing and media — including a stint as a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter. She founded and for 26 years ran Vernon Research Group before selling to The Gazette Company in 2013. While running the business, Vernon earned a MBA at the University of Iowa.
Vernon has a long record of community service involvement. As president of the Junior League of Cedar Rapids in the mid-1990s, she led a $1.7 million campaign to build the Madge Phillips Center for homeless women and children in Cedar Rapids.
As a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council, Vernon said she has learned more about the federal government than anyone could learn at the Statehouse.
Vernon, 56, is in her seventh year on the council and fifth year as mayor pro tempore. Since a devastating flood in 2008, she has regularly dealt with a half-dozen federal agencies, including FEMA, Housing and Urban Development and the Army Corps of Engineers, to help restore Cedar Rapids neighborhoods, support businesses and protect the city from future floods.
As a congressional candidate, Vernon said her top priorities were improving access to education, including preschool and postsecondary programs, and investing in infrastructure, such as roads and the electrical grid. She also supported same-sex marriage, pro-choice and gender pay equity.
She finished second in that five-way race with 24 percent of the vote to State Rep. Pat Murphy’s 37 percent.
The former small business owner and Chamber of Commerce member developed a working relationship with local labor unions — an important constituency for the Hatch-Vernon team that is likely to be outspent by the Branstad-Kim Reynolds ticket.
Cedar Rapids area union endorsed and contributed to her congressional campaign. That included the 15,000-member Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council that represents 18 building trade unions in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor.
Still, Vernon was not a universal choice as at last one Democratic lawmaker commented that the hope had been for a Democrat as lieutenant governor nominee. That’s a reference to Vernon’s Republican past. Raised a Republican, she changed her party affiliation in 2009. Her party hopping was an issue that dogged her during the 1st District race.
“I’ve been a lifelong progressive and community activist. I wanted to become part of a party that made sense to me,” she explained when other candidates described themselves as “lifelong” party members.
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