IA-Gov: Bruce Braley thinking about it

Today’s Sunday Des Moines Register features a long story by Jennifer Jacobs about Representative Bruce Braley considering a run for governor in 2014.  

Braley was just re-elected to a fourth term representing Iowa’s first Congressional district. He defeated Ben Lange by a 15-point margin, winning 17 of the 20 counties in the district. In contrast, Braley barely scraped by the same challenger in 2010, thanks in part to conservative third-party candidates who drew more votes than the margin between Braley and Lange.

When the Register’s Jacobs asked Braley whether he’s thinking about running for governor, he responded, “Not today. I’m glad to be working for the people of Iowa’s 1st District.” Yet several Democrats, including State Senator Bill Dotzler and former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rob Tully, indicated that Braley had approached them for feedback on a possible race against Branstad.

On Thursday, he held several meetings with key Democrats and attended a fundraiser for Democratic secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson in Beaverdale.

Braley is scheduled to hold a news conference at the Iowa Capitol on Monday, the first day of the new legislative session, and will meet privately with Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature.

Braley has long been considered heir apparent to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. But Harkin no longer seems likely to retire in 2014. He is in good health and enjoying his work as head of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Braley would probably be the strongest Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate if Chuck Grassley retires in 2016. At that point, Grassley would be 83 years old. Plenty of U.S. senators have been re-elected well into their 80s, though.

Braley may not want to wait for a shot at an open statewide race, but I would advise him to sit tight and run for Senate in 2016 or governor in 2018. He’s only in his mid-50s and has plenty of time to seek higher office later. Like Roxanne Conlin told Jacobs,

“[H]e has to be very careful not to leave a public position at which he is excellent and that lets him do good in the world to run for something he cannot win. And I’m sure that’s what he is weighing. … Nobody wants to see Bruce do any kind of a sacrificial lamb thing.”

Jacobs reports,

Private polling in October 2012 suggested Braley had bipartisan appeal within his district.

“Braley led among voters registered with no party affiliation by over 20 percent and even led among men with no party affiliation, a notoriously difficult group for Democrats,” Braley’s campaign pollster, Diane Feldman, wrote in a postmortem on the 2012 election. The Register obtained a copy of the document from a Braley supporter.

“Braley led by a wide margin among both young voters and seniors, and performed well among rural as well as more urban voters,” the memo said.

Leading Ben Lange convincingly in a D+5 Congressional district doesn’t say much about Braley’s prospects in a statewide race–especially not a race against Branstad. As Republicans love to remind us, Branstad has never lost an election. He is well-known and relatively well-liked. A fresh candidate is probably better positioned than former Governor Chet Culver to take on Branstad, but I think it would be foolish for Braley to give up his Congressional seat to run against an entrenched incumbent.

The case for Braley running for governor is this: Democrats will probably be in the U.S. House minority for quite some time, given effective Republican gerrymandering and ineffective leadership at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, set to continue for another election cycle. Braley may prefer to risk it all on a run for governor than play it safe and be stuck where he is indefinitely.

Any comments about the 2014 governor’s race or Braley’s ambitions are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Braley’s Des Moines press conference was about a bill he’s introducing for the second time.

Congressman Bruce Braley is introducing legislation in the U.S. House that would provide federal grants to test for the presence of dangerous levels of radon gas in schools, as well as grants to cover steps schools might take to reduce radon levels. The money would be reserved for high-risk areas – and Iowa is the state where the highest levels of radon exist.

“The thing that I think we, as adults, need to focus on is our kids shouldn’t be worried about the level of radon gas in their schools,” Braley says. “They should trust us to do the right thing and pass public policies that are going to protect them so they don’t have to worry about those issues.”

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas – and it’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer. [..]

Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says he hopes to work with Republicans from other states where radon levels are high to advance his proposal in the U.S. House. This is the second straight year Braley has held a news conference at the statehouse in Des Moines on the opening day of the Iowa legislature. Reporters asked Braley if it’s because he’s planning a run for governor.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Braley replied. “…People are tired of politics in this state. It’s the beginning of a new day in the legislature. A lot of people are focused on the future and they’ll be plenty of time for talking about that later.”

Braley’s “End Radon in Schools Act” will be the first bill he introduces in the new congress. Braley introduced identical legislation this past September, but it died when the last congress ended the first week of January.

Reducing radon levels in schools is an excellent idea that will go nowhere fast in the House of Representatives.

  • Branstad

    If there were a credible, right wing third party challenge to Branstad in a general election, it may make sense.  Braley shouldn’t run otherwise and I think the Iowa Democratic Party wants people to think that they are taking the process seriously so they probably asked Braley to “consider” it and to put out word to media outlets.    

    • very plausible

      I think the Iowa Democratic Party wants people to think that they are taking the process seriously so they probably asked Braley to “consider” it and to put out word to media outlets.  

      Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  • what they're really saying

    Des Moines Register: Haterz gonna hate. We still got game, SCOOP, bitchz.

    Bruce Braley: I’m going to be a senior citizen before Harkin or Grassley even think about “spending more time with family.” It’s My Turn!

    Roxanne Conlin: It’s a trap, yo!

    Liz Mathis: Looks like I might move to DC. Practicing my first wimminz hand wave now.

    Jeff Danielson: Foiled again.

    Brad Anderson: I’m making promises my ass is gonna hafta cash, but I’m having fun.

    Vilsack, C: Uhm, what about Me? Whadya mean Sue & Norm are gone, and you’re not the ones who made all the promises?

    Chet Culver: I get it. CC, now BB. Ha-ha. No, he’s not that much slimmer, come on. Tanned, rested, ready.

  • Choice

  • Braley should do what he thinks best on the governor's race.

    But if Culver is the candidate we will lose again.  Last time he ran, I heard from Democrats in the legislature who didn’t like him and thought he treated them disrespectfully.  I recently talked to a few others who really don’t want him to run. That is not a good start.

    If Braley votes with Tom, more or less, he would be my guy for the next Senate race.  If he votes with Pelosi to cut earned benefits to appease the Republicans, no.

    • I've been trying to get a comment

      from Braley about whether he would accept a chained CPI or other Social Security cuts as part of a broad deficit cutting plan. So far, no comment from his office.  

  • Bruce is awesome and would win

    Having worked for Congressman Braley’s reelection campaign in 2010 I can say with firsthand knowledge that Bruce would make an excellent candidate for Governor. I spent hours driving around Northeast Iowa with Rep. Braley and he is one of the most genuinely nice, dedicated, and hardworking public servants I have ever met. I think he would win but it would be a tough campaign a lot tougher than being reelected in the 1st district.  

    • I'm not convinced

      Branstad is beatable. For that reason, I would rather not see a Democrat give up another elected office to take on the challenge. If Braley runs for governor, I think Democrats have a decent shot at holding IA-01, but in a midterm election that could be dicey with a lesser-known candidate.  

  • Whether or not, whatever

    But it is delightfully good fun this morning to see how quickly Craig (TIR) got his choir singing in perfect unison with his Braley-might-run piece.

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