Living in Society

Iowa’s First District Democratic Primary Race

Iowa Congressional Districts
Iowa Congressional Districts

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Since I live in the second district, I won’t be writing a lot about this race, but felt it important to acknowledge what’s going on in the first district. My views do not represent those of our beloved publisher or our other writers).

Five Democrats are at various stages of jumping into the race to represent the first congressional district when Rep. Bruce Braley exits the house, hopefully for the U.S. senate, after the 2014 general election. Of the five, I met only one, Swati Dandekar. I encountered Dandekar in my former life in the transportation business where we were introduced by one of the state’s key Republicans. We also had a chat in Des Moines while I was advocating against House File 561, the nuclear power finance bill. I said my piece about her here, and have nothing further to add. Let’s take a look at the other four candidates.

The remaining four U.S. house candidates, in alphabetical order, are: Anesa Kajtazovic, Pat Murphy, Dave O’Brien and Monica Vernon.

Anesa Kajtazovic is the face of the future of the Democratic party. She has served in the Iowa house since January 2011, and the only question about her for Democrats is whether or not now is her time. Yesterday she announced on Facebook and twitter that she is making a special announcement at press conferences in Marshalltown, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque on Aug. 20. Candidates don’t make four-stop tours to announce they aren’t running, so she is expected to make it official. She seems to believe now is the time.

Pat Murphy is the face of the past of the Democratic party. He already has done fundraising the way experienced pols do, and my former legislators Ro Foege and Nate Willems recently held a fundraiser for him. The Democratic activists with whom Blog for Iowa has spoken, who have had contact with Murphy, are not enthused about his candidacy. There is something to be said for experience, but in a field that has three women and several fresh faces, a Pat Murphy primary win would represent more of the same for Iowa Democrats and that could be problematic in the general election.

Dave O’Brien’s brief biography is what I know about him. He is a Cedar Rapids attorney and according to his web site, “his law practice consists primarily of fighting for Iowans who have been injured by the negligent and wrongful acts of others.” Where I come from, that’s called being an ambulance chaser, and has a negative connotation. Perhaps that’s an unfair comment, and as the campaign progresses, Democratic activists who don’t know him will get a chance to do so. At the starting line, he presents nothing unique or exciting in his resume, but that could be fixed. Bruce Braley is a progressive Democrat. O’Brien says he is one too, but that remains to be discovered.

Finally, there is Monica Vernon, a two-term city councilwoman from Cedar Rapids. Vernon posted on her Facebook page, “the last thirty years of my life were devoted to raising a family, growing a business and working hard to make my community a better place. As a Cedar Rapids city councilwoman, I have tackled extremely difficult issues as we recovered and rebuilt our community after the flood. Since the devastating storm of 2008, I have continued to work with other local, regional and national leaders on forward thinking, short and long term strategies to spur economic development, improve neighborhood safety and more.” It’s a well crafted and earnest statement. Perhaps the pizzazz will be forthcoming. Best of luck Monica.

Besides bloggers and political activists, few people I know are engaged in politics at the end of one of the best summers we have had in recent years. As an outsider looking into the first district, the opinions of this author don’t matter much. I look forward to seeing how the race plays out and what first district Democrats decide in the June 3, 2014 primary.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa.