Former Iowa DNR Director Rich Leopold Is First Dem to Enter 2018 Gubernatorial Race

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Leopold for Iowa/Facebook

Rich Leopold, a former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Dickinson County Conservation Board member, became the first Democrat to officially declare their intentions for the 2018 governor’s race to succeed Terry Branstad, who is expected to leave office later this year to become president-elect Donald Trump’s ambassador to China.

A first-time political candidate, Leopold led the DNR during the tenure of former Democratic Gov. Chet Culver and currently serves as director of the Polk County Conservation Board.

He made his announcement Wednesday in a live Facebook video, which focused on progressive issues including the environment — namely, pollution he said has led to “some of the filthiest water in the country” — and strengthening the labor force.

“I’m very candid. I’m very transparent. I’m very fair,” Leopold said in the video, in which he emphasized his “outsider” qualities and took a shot at Branstad. “I believe these things are desperately needed at the Capitol and largely absent. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I think that Iowans deserve a governor that has some backbone and character.”

Leopold is also chairman of the Grow Iowa PAC, which he self-funded to the tune of $10,600 in 2016 and has contributed to Democratic causes and candidates including Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack, as well as Progress Iowa, a progressive advocacy group partnered with the liberal political blog Iowa Starting Line.

Bleeding Heartland has more details about Leopold and a partial transcript of his Facebook video announcement.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.