Mike Sherzan becomes third Democratic candidate in IA-03

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Mike Sherzan announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district. He recently stepped down as leader of the financial services company he founded in order to focus his full attention on the Congressional race. I enclose below Sherzan’s press release and statements from his campaign website, which outline the candidate’s four priority issues: protecting retirement security by not privatizing Medicare or Social Security; promoting clean energy, with a focus on renewables and ag-based technologies; increasing the number of college graduates by reducing the cost of tuition and student loans; and rebuilding the middle-class by supporting equal pay for women and a minimum wage hike.

Sherzan has had a successful career in finance and may be able to largely self-fund his campaign, but he is distancing himself from stereotypes about corporate leaders who run for office. His "about" page and policy statements repeatedly refer to growing up in a family of modest means and working his way through college, with the help of Social Security benefits after his father’s sudden passing. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland last month, Sherzan emphasized that he "comes from a Democratic background" and urged people not to "judge my positions based on my business experience," adding that "government was never meant to be a business." His campaign is on Twitter and Facebook, though strangely, at this writing the campaign launch hasn’t been announced on either of those pages.

Sherzan briefly ran for Congress during the last election cycle but withdrew from that race in April 2013, citing unspecified health issues. He now joins Desmund Adams and Jim Mowrer in a Democratic field that may expand to include former Governor Chet Culver, who is in no hurry to make a decision. A few hours after Sherzan announced, Mowrer’s campaign rolled out a new batch of endorsements, which I’ve added at the end of this post. The 2014 challenger to Representative Steve King in IA-04 has lined up the most support from Iowa Democratic insiders, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, and eight current state legislators.

The winner of next June’s Democratic primary will face first-term Representative David Young in what may become Iowa’s most competitive Congressional district. The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,733 active registered Democrats, 163,699 Republicans, and 166,740 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Polk County will be central to every candidate’s strategy for winning the nomination, because two-thirds of the registered Democrats in IA-03 live in the district’s most populous county.

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IA-03: More signs Chet Culver may run

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Former Governor Chet Culver "is getting closer" to joining the Democratic field in Iowa’s third district, Civic Skinny reports in the latest edition of the weekly Cityview.

He is looking at the numbers — the money numbers and the registration numbers — and lining up a staff. He is studying the issues and talking to longtime supporters. He is looking at the problems of running — and, he hopes, serving — while still being a good father to two teenagers and a supportive husband to a wife who works part-time as a lawyer in Des Moines. […]

Culver says he is getting in shape physically for a run and just got a good report from his doctor.

Last week, Culver made clear that he would enjoy returning to public service, views IA-03 as a "good fit," and is confident he could raise the resources to run a successful campaign.

Civic Skinny speculated that beating the other likely candidates in the Democratic field (Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer, and Mike Sherzan) "probably wouldn’t be hard [for Culver], with his name recognition and zest for campaigning." But I would expect a battle royal in an IA-03 primary involving the former governor. Not only has Mowrer lined up support from many prominent local Democrats, he is rumored to have strong backing in labor circles. Culver’s uneasy relationship with organized labor dates to the 2006 gubernatorial primary, when some large unions including AFSCME endorsed his main rival Mike Blouin. The bad blood really set in when the governor vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008.

It’s also important to remember that for a Congressional race, Culver will not be able to collect very large donations from his strongest supporters. Individual contributions for federal candidates max out at $2,700 for the primary election and $2,700 for the general election (but that money can’t be used until after the June 2016 primary). During the first four months of 2006, Culver’s campaign for governor collected $25,000 gifts from three donors, $10,000 from five more donors, and $5,000 from more than a dozen others. Two more $10,000 gifts and some $5,000 checks came in during the final weeks before the 2006 primary. Culver’s 2005 campaign disclosure report included several $10,000 gifts and one for $15,000 as well.

Running a Congressional primary campaign will be less expensive than running for governor statewide, especially since about two-thirds of the registered Democrats in the district live in Polk County. Nevertheless, Culver will have a short time span to raise a lot of money in increments of no more than $2,700 from any one person.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread.

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IA-03: Mike Sherzan sounds ready to seek Democratic nomination

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A third candidate may soon join the Democratic field in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Mike Sherzan confirmed by telephone this morning that he has been talking to potential constituents about the race and will decide whether to run before the end of the year. Sherzan was the first Democrat to launch a campaign in IA-03 in 2013 but withdrew from the race two months later, citing health issues. Asked whether he is seriously considering another Congressional bid, Sherzan said today he is "farther along than that." He noted that he recently stepped down as president and CEO of Broker Dealer Financial Services Corp. in West Des Moines (positions he had held since 1991). According to Sherzan, it is "not possible" to run a company and run for Congress at the same time, because a campaign "takes everything you have and more."

Key political issues for Sherzan include the "huge gap in income levels in this country" and the worsening economic position of the middle class. He supports raising the minimum wage and is concerned about the gap between men and women’s pay. Sherzan also said we "should be able to talk about gun control," namely common-sense measures most gun owners would support. He identified college student debt as a major problem as well.

Sherzan has been successful in the business world and argued that his background in negotiations would help him work across the aisle. But he emphasized that he "comes from a Democratic background" and urged people not to "judge my positions based on my business experience." For instance, Sherzan believes "government was never meant to be a business"—a contrast to rhetoric often heard from corporate leaders who run for office. Click here for more background on the likely candidate.

This summer, Desmund Adams and Jim Mowrer became the first two Democrats to declare candidacies against first-term Representative David Young. So far, Mowrer has raised more money and has more backing from Iowa Democratic insiders. IA-03 covers sixteen counties in central and southwest Iowa and contains 150,549 active registered Democrats, 163,411 Republicans, and 165,750 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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IA-03: Mike Sherzan drops out, citing health issues

Mike Sherzan announced by e-mail this afternoon that he will not run for Congress in Iowa’s third district because of "personal health issues." His full statement is after the jump. Sherzan says his campaign will return all contributions collected since he launched his candidacy last month.

I’m sure everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community joins me in wishing Sherzan a full recovery from his health problems. Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread. Other potential Democratic candidates include former State Senator Staci Appel of Warren County and Dr. Andy McGuire, a health insurance company executive who ran for lieutenant governor in the 2006 Democratic primary.

Whoever takes on ten-term incumbent Tom Latham will face an uphill battle in the district. On paper, it looks like a tossup with 158,877 registered Democrats, 165,134 Republicans, and 156,973 no-party voters as of April 2013. However, Latham has routinely outperformed the top of the Republican ticket in his re-election campaigns.  

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New thread on the Iowa Congressional races

Dubuque business owner Rod Blum told the Marshall County Republican Central Committee this week that he plans to enter the GOP primary to represent the open first Congressional district. Blum finished a close second to Ben Lange in the 2012 IA-01 primary. Cedar Rapids business owner Steve Rathje was the first Republican to announce in IA-01. I haven’t heard any news lately about other possible Republican candidates in the first district, like State Representative Walt Rogers or former Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer predicted on Sunday that the first Iowa woman elected governor or to Congress will be a Republican. If no Democratic woman steps up in IA-01, I believe Upmeyer will be proven right. I have heard from several independent sources that State Senator Liz Mathis is privately telling Democrats she won’t run for Congress. Senate President Pam Jochum took herself out of the running last month. Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate so far. State Senator Steve Sodders is talking with potential supporters about the race.

I haven’t heard about any Republican planning to run against four-term Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02. For now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not appear worried about holding this district.

According to the Des Moines rumor mill, former State Senator Staci Appel is considering a run for Congress in IA-03. Appel lives in Warren County and served one term in the Iowa Senate before losing to Republican Kent Sorenson in 2010. Mike Sherzan is currently the only declared Democratic challenger to ten-term Republican Tom Latham.

I haven’t heard of any Democrats planning to challenge six-term incumbent Steve King in IA-04. I’m still confident King will not run for the U.S. Senate. But if King does leave the fourth district open, many Republicans are rumored to be thinking about that race, including Upmeyer and State Representative Chip Baltimore.

Any comments about next year’s Congressional races in Iowa are welcome in this thread. A Congressional map is after the jump, along with the latest voter registration numbers in each district and Stuart Rothenberg’s comments on why he does not consider Latham or King vulnerable in 2014.

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