Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is jumping in the race for the Democratic Party’s 2006 nomination for governor. “I want to be very clear. This is no exploratory committee. No ‘let me think about it ’til fall.’ This is the real thing and I am in this race to win it,” Judge said during a late-morning news conference outside her new campaign headquarters in Des Moines. “I have the vision, the character and the experience to lead this state,” Judge said. She says two-term Governor Tom Vilsack, who is not seeking re-election, leaves “huge shoes to fill,” but she promises a “fresh approach” if elected. If she were to win, Judge would become Iowa’s first woman governor. “I believe in my heart that Iowa will elect a woman governor,” Judge said. “If I didn’t believe that, I would not do this.” Judge credits other women candidates like Bonnie Campbell and Roxanne Conlin, both of whom ran for governor and lost in the past 20 years. But while Judge said she stands on the shoulders of those women candidates who’ve gone before, Judge dismisses the idea gender will play a role in the election.”I think it is about the person. It is about the message. It’s about the campaign and the ability to deliver,” she said. “I think that gender has very little to do with it.” Judge characterizes herself as a plain, tough talker who is “Iowa Subborn.” “You can count on me to be pro-education, pro-environment, pro-opportunity,” she said. “…I will never, ever back down.” Judge was first elected to the state Senate in 1992 and has won two terms as State Ag Secretary. She’s also worked as a real estate agent, an appraiser, a mediator and a registered nurse. She promises to reveal a health care reform plan before summer’s end. “We cannot wait any longer for the federal government to fix the health care problem,” Judge said. A 2006 race, in the primary alone, may cost a candidate a couple of million dollars, and Judge said she can raise that kind of money. “I am in this for the long pull,” Judge said.
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