Swati Dandekar confirmed for Asian Development Bank position

The U.S. Senate has confirmed former State Senator Swati Dandekar as U.S. executive director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of ambassador. Senators approved Dandekar’s non-controversial appointment by voice vote on May 17, Senator Chuck Grassley’s office announced the next day. President Barack Obama nominated Dandekar for the position last November. Created in 1966 and representing dozens of member countries, the bank "finances development in the Asia and Pacific region with the aim of reducing poverty" through "loans, technical assistance and grants for a broad range of development activities."

Grassley commented in a statement,

Swati Dandekar has served Iowa in many ways over a long period of time. She’s shown her talent for building relationships that lead to productive dialogue and initiatives. Her enthusiasm for public service and willingness to take on new challenges and responsibilities are what the public deserves. The President and the Senate made a good decision in choosing Swati Dandekar to represent the United States in this capacity.

Born and raised in India, Dandekar has lived in Marion (Linn County) since the 1970s. She won a seat on the Linn-Mar School Board during the 1990s and was a Governor Tom Vilsack appointee to the Vision Iowa board in 2000. To my knowledge, Dandekar was the longest-serving Asian-American in the Iowa legislature, spending six years in the state House before winning a swing Senate district in 2008. The newspaper AsianWeek named her Asian Pacific American of the year in 2008, and she was a leader of the National Foundation for Women Legislators.

No Asian-American has served in the Iowa legislature since Dandekar resigned her seat in 2011 to accept Governor Terry Branstad’s appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board. She left that position in 2013 to run for Congress, finishing third in the 2014 Democratic primary to represent Iowa’s first district.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline to compete in the Democratic or Republican primaries has passed, the field of candidates is set in most of the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that will be on the ballot this fall.

It’s time for a first look at chances to increase diversity in the state legislature for the next two years. The proportion of white lawmakers is unlikely to change, while the proportion of women could move in either direction.

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Where are they now? Swati Dandekar edition

President Barack Obama has named former State Senator Swati Dandekar "to be United States director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of ambassador," the White House announced yesterday. Created in 1966 and representing dozens of member countries, the bank had nearly $23 billion in operations last year. It "finances development in the Asia and Pacific region with the aim of reducing poverty" through "loans, technical assistance and grants for a broad range of development activities."

After growing up and getting her education in India, Dandekar moved to Marion, Iowa with her husband during the 1970s. She became active in local schools while raising her children and served for six years on the Linn-Mar School Board before winning three elections to the Iowa House and eventually a 2008 election to the Iowa Senate. That last victory prompted the Asian-American newspaper AsianWeek to name Dandekar the Asian Pacific American of the year. During her years as a state lawmaker, Dandekar focused on many education and economic development issues; she was also involved in efforts to promote trade between Iowa and India. A past leader of the National Foundation for Women Legislators, Dandekar did not serve out her term in the Iowa Senate, accepting an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board in 2011. She left that position in order to run for Congress in Iowa’s first district. Dandekar finished third in the 2014 Democratic primary behind Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon.

Dandekar disclosed earlier this year that she was considering running for Congress again. She confirmed by phone today that because of her new position, she has ruled out any election campaign. I doubt she will endorse a candidate in the three-way primary between Murphy, Vernon, and Gary Kroeger to take on IA-01’s Republican incumbent Rod Blum.

One pro-choice Democratic woman's question for EMILY's List

Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the first Congressional candidate endorsed this cycle by the influential political action committee EMILY’s List. The PAC’s mission is straightforward: "We elect pro-choice Democratic women to office." EMILY’s List did not get involved in the 2014 primary to represent Iowa’s first district, in which three of the five candidates were pro-choice women. But the PAC’s leaders have signaled they will fight to help Vernon win the IA-01 nomination in 2016.

As in the last election cycle, Vernon’s main competition for the right to face Republican Rod Blum will be former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy. Even before Murphy officially entered the race last week, EMILY’s List took the first shot at the 2014 Democratic nominee. Cristinia Crippes reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on July 20,

“Pat Murphy cannot be trusted to stand up for women and families across Iowa — just look at his long record of trying to restrict women’s access to health care and put politics in the middle of decisions that should be left between women and their doctors,” Emily’s List press secretary Rachel Thomas said in a statement.

On July 29, EMILY’s List fleshed out that case with a graphic I’ve enclosed below, highlighting Murphy’s “pro-life” votes and statements between 1996 and 2007.

This lifelong Democrat and third-generation supporter of reproductive rights in Iowa has one question for the EMILY’s List strategists: Do you really want to go there?

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Pat Murphy would enter this IA-01 primary as the underdog (updated)

Both Iowa Starting Line and Roll Call are reporting today that former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is likely to run for Congress again in the first district. Murphy won the five-way 2014 primary with just under 37 percent of the vote.

Other Iowa Democrats have lost their first U.S. House race before winning a seat in Congress on the second try, including legends Neal Smith, Tom Harkin, and Berkley Bedell. Still, I am skeptical that northeast Iowa Democrats will want to give Murphy another shot at beating Republican Rod Blum.

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Ravi Patel exits IA-01 Democratic primary

Ravi Patel announced yesterday that he is no longer running for Congress in Iowa’s first district. I enclose below the full statement from the Patel for Iowa website, which says "it has become clear" that a "tough battle for the Democratic primary nomination" would "have diverted energy and resources that should be directed at changing the course of our nation." Patel added that he will be able to have more influence on "public life in Northeast Iowa […] through the private sector." He will offer full refunds to campaign contributors, who donated more than half a million dollars during the first quarter of this year alone.

I have no idea what prompted Patel’s decision. The stated reason makes no sense, as “it has been clear” for months that Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the front-runner in this primary, and that she would also raise significant campaign funds. Factor in Patel’s youth and the fact that he has mostly lived in IA-02, and there was never any reason for him to think winning the primary wouldn’t be a “tough battle.” Backers were allegedly getting ready to launch a super-PAC to support his candidacy, a move without precedent in this state.

Before we assume Patel still has a future in Iowa politics, let’s wait to learn more about why he quit this race. Pat Rynard cited a Dubuque Telegraph-Herald article from a few days ago, which showed that Patel “didn’t have much of an answer on some basic issues Congress would face, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and dealing with ISIS.” I find it hard to imagine any highly-motivated candidate would drop out because of some bad press nearly a year before the primary. Rynard speculated that Patel made a “mature” decision to end a candidacy with a low probability of success. If so, good for him, but count me among the cynics waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Patel’s exit leaves Vernon and Gary Kroeger as the only declared Democratic candidates in IA-01. Vernon will be heavily favored. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third behind Pat Murphy and Vernon in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, is considering a repeat bid here. Winning the Democratic nomination would be an uphill battle for Dandekar for various reasons.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. IA-01 Representative Rod Blum is widely considered to be one of the most vulnerable Congressional incumbents.

UPDATE: Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) endorsed Vernon on June 24: “She has proven that she is committed to improving the lives of Iowa’s working families. I look forward to having her in Congress along side of me, fighting for the people of Iowa.” Loebsack lived and worked in Linn County (now the most populous in IA-01) for most of his adult life and represented the county in Congress from 2007 through 2012, when it was part of the second district.

Added below statements from Vernon and Kroeger on Patel dropping out.

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