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Legislature’s top Democrat will not run for governor in 2014

(Radio Iowa) – The top Democrat in the Iowa legislature has ruled out running for governor in 2014.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said this morning he thought “long and hard” about running for higher office, but decided in the past 10 days he would stay in the senate.

“I think Terry Branstad is eminently beatable,” Gronstal told Radio Iowa. “This is not the same Terry Branstad that was governor back in the ’80s who understood the spirit of compromise, so I think we have a much more ideological governor. I am confident we (Democrats) can find a candidate who will be able to beat him.”

Gronstal, who is 63 years old, has been a legislator since 1983, serving one term in the Iowa House before running for the state senate. He’s been a state senator for 29 years and a top leader for Democrats in the senate for 17 of those years.

Gronstal said his focus is on helping Democrats retain control of the senate’s debate agenda. “I’m happy that I’ve made the decision and we can move forward on keeping a majority in the Iowa Senate,” Gronstal said.

Gronstal won reelection to the state senate in 2012 and his term isn’t up ’til 2016, so his name will not be on the ballot in 2014. Gronstal thought about running for governor in 2010, but decided against it then, too.

“Whenever I do these kinds of really tough decisions I do a lot of yard work,” Gronstal said, “some mundane task that helps me center myself.”

State Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, announced his candidacy for governor in June. Democratic State Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines is raising money and campaigning around the state, although Hatch has said his formal decision about a run for governor won’t come ’til the end of this summer.

Bob Krause, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2010, is also running for governor.  State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, a Democrat, told Radio Iowa several weeks ago that he is considering a run for governor.

Republican Terry Branstad is expected to seek a sixth term as governor in 2014. His campaign team doubled from four to eight paid staff today with the hiring of field directors based in each of Iowa’s four congressional districts.