MUSCATINE, Iowa — For Jonathan Narcisse, running for governor is part of the long political game, building a political organization that will grow into an organization representing the people of Iowa and their interests.
It's something that's been done before, when a group of obscure political activists in 1854 founded the Republican Party in large part to combat slavery and within six years had secured the presidency of the United States.
"It was a way to take back our state," Narcisse said about the founding of the Iowa Party in 2009. Narcisse was in Muscatine Monday and gave an interview to the Muscatine Journal.
Narcisse has been the publisher of dozens of periodicals in Iowa, and now serves as editor of the Iowa Bystander and the publisher of the statewide El Comunicador and Iowa Fronteras. In addition, he previously served on the Des Moines School Board, the board of the Iowa/Nebraska NAACP, and what is now known as the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans.
Narcisse helped found the Iowa Party shortly after he ended his stint on the Des Moines School Board in 2009. That was the start of a six-year plan to build the party into an institution representing the Iowa people.
He first ran for the governor's office in 2010, what he called a "tremendous learning experience." The fledgling organization still managed slightly less than 2 percent of the vote despite its lack of experience.
This year, with an improved ground organization, a greater effort at reaching out to local media, and appearances at events such as the Iowa State Fair, Narcisse is hoping to get more than 2 percent of the vote, which would help qualify the Iowa Party for official recognition in Iowa.
"It's exciting to get a chance to talk to Iowans about this," he said.
Although Narcisse said third party candidates such as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader have had success in Iowa, they have failed to maintain a presence in the state after their runs at office.
"They have abandoned them (Iowa supporters) like children they did not know they sired," he said.
By contrast, he said the focus of the Iowa Party will be serving as a watchdog to the activities of state government and an advocate for the interests of the taxpayers, something he said neither the Republicans or Democrats do.
Rather than two parties competing against each other like two teams in an old football rivalry, he said disputes between Republicans and Democrats are more like two quarterbacks fighting over who gets to lead the team. He recalled the case of Bruce Rastetter, whom Gov. Terry Branstad appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents and then used that influence to secure $480,000 in no-interest loans from a division of Iowa State University. Narcisse said one of the reasons that State Sen. Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, has not commented on this issue is because he has ties to Rastetter, as well.
"Iowas need to be protected. I love this state," he said. "We're great people, but our leadership are villains."
Among some of the other ideas Narcisse said he supports:
- More access to higher education for Iowa students and a stronger effort to keep graduates in the state. He proposed a plan to allow students willing to do full-time community service during the summers the chance for a free education at regent colleges or vouchers for studies at private Iowa colleges.
- Decrease the level of spending on administrative expenses at the K-12 and higher education levels and use those savings for spending on teachers.
- Take a closer look at what he considered the overuse of eminent domain to seize private property for government projects, and encourage those looking to build or expand businesses in the state to utilize existing infrastructure rather than expanding urban sprawl in the state.