Today, Radio Iowa begins a three-part series profiling the three leading Democrats in the race for governor. Our first profile highlights Mike Blouin.
Blouin has a resume that features experience inside government as well as experience in the business world. Blouin was a 22-year-old school teacher in Dubuque back in 1968 when he got elected to the state legislature.
In 1974 Blouin won a seat in congress, representing Dubuque and other portions of northeast Iowa. But in 1978 Blouin lost his bid for a third term in congress.
Blouin then worked briefly for the Carter Administration in Washington, D.C. before settling in Cedar Rapids, where he became an administrator at Kirkwood Community College.
Blouin then moved on to head the chambers of commerce in Iowa’s two largest cities — Cedar Rapids and Des Moines — before returning to government in early 2003. Recently-re-elected Governor Tom Vilsack asked Blouin to lead the state Department of Economic Development. Blouin, who is now 60, left that job in July of last year to campaign full-time for the top job in state government.
Over the past 10 months, Blouin’s Democratic rivals have attacked the state economic development program he helped create and administer — the Iowa Values Fund that has delivered huge grants to businesses building or expanding in Iowa. Blouin defends that program as a means of creating new and good-paying jobs. “I’ve done awfully well in my years in all of the roles I’ve had in terms of executive (and) administrative responsibilities,” Blouin says. “I’ve had an awfully good track record of success.”
Blouin’s detractors also highlight his stand on abortion. Since his early days as a politician, Blouin has declared himself “pro-life” and during this campaign Blouin has been questioned repeatedly about how he’d react as governor to proposals that would impose legal restrictions on abortion.
This is how he answered that question during an appearance on Iowa Public Television. “I will absolutely protect current law,” Blouin said. “I’ll veto any attempt to change it either way.” “I want to put money and program effort into prevention of unwanted pregnancies…I can do that in full conscience and conscious that I believe I am doing what’s right without changing who I am.”
Blouin’s campaign focus has been on lining up Iowa Democratic party insiders who can deliver votes, and he’s won the endorsement of the majority of labor unions in the state as well as the backing of three-quarters of the Democrats who currently serve in the Iowa House and Senate. Those backers contend Blouin would give Democrats the best chance against Republican nominee Jim Nussle in November.
Blouin makes that case as well. “I think I have a better grasp of the issues, a better understand of where Iowa is and where it needs to go,” Blouin says. “I bring an immense amount of leadership — a will and a desire and a track record of knowing how to pull people together, create a vision that makes a difference in this state, a realistic sense of how to achieve it and the ability to get it done.”