Representative Bruce Braley’s campaign for the U.S. Senate has steadily rolled out endorsements this month. Eight labor unions have backed Braley’s Senate bid so far, joined today by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald.
Since Braley lacks any competition in the Democratic primary, these endorsements aren’t newsworthy at face value. However, a closer look at the announcements points to five major themes the Braley campaign will highlight over the next 19 months.
UPDATE: Added a sixth theme below.
Almost every press release from Braley’s campaign includes some variant of the word “fight” (or “fighter” or “fighting”). Here’s what the four-term member of Congress will promise to fight for as he runs to replace Senator Tom Harkin in 2014.
1. The interests of working families and the middle class
During his last re-election campaign in the first Congressional district, Braley repeatedly highlighted his work to represent the interests of the middle class or the “99 percent.” His Senate campaign is hitting the same themes. From the February 16 press release announcing Representative Dave Loebsack’s endorsement:
Loebsack said, “I’m proud to endorse Bruce Braley for Senate. For the last 30 years, Tom Harkin has showed us how to be a Senator who works to create a world full of opportunities for people who want to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Loebsack continued, “I have served with Bruce for six years now, and I can tell you from seeing his determination and work ethic up close there is no one at this time who is more ready to keep up the fight to strengthen middle class families and to make life better for Iowans. I am pleased to stand with Bruce. There is not a better choice in the Democratic Party, or in the state, to succeed
Most of the eight press releases announcing labor union endorsements have sounded a similar note. From March 21:
Jeff Smith, president of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3, said, “We’re excited to endorse Bruce Braley for Senate. He has a long record of getting things done for Iowa that expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and create a level playing field for the middle class. We know he’ll do even more in the Senate.”
From March 19:
Ron McInroy, UAW [United Auto Workers] Region 4 director, said, “I’ve known Bruce Braley since long before he was first elected. For as long as I’ve known him, Bruce has worked tirelessly for working men and women across Iowa. In Congress, he’s fought to create opportunity for Iowa’s working families, level the playing field for American manufacturers, and strengthen the middle class. He’s never forgotten where he’s come from, and he’ll be even more effective in the US Senate. UAW Region 4 is proud to endorse him today.”
Bruce Braley said, “I’m proud to have the endorsement of UAW Region 4. The tens of thousands of UAW members in Iowa demonstrate every day why American workers are the most productive and best skilled in the world. I’m running for Senate to strengthen American manufacturing and create more opportunities for American workers, and UAW’s support will help get the job done.”
From March 13:
Danny Homan, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 president, said, “To know what Bruce Braley works for, just take a look at where he’s come from. His mom is still teaching in Brooklyn, Iowa, and his dad worked at a grain elevator. Bruce learned by their example early in life how to work hard, and he’s been a fighter for the middle class in Congress. We know he’ll be even more effective in the US Senate, and AFSCME Iowa Council 61 is proud to endorse him.”
Rep. Bruce Braley said, “I’m honored to have the endorsement of AFSCME Iowa Council 61. From nurses to firefighters to police officers and more, AFSCME represents people who work every day to make Iowa a better place to live and raise a family. I’m running for Senate to be an even more effective voice for Iowa’s middle class, and their support will help me get the job done.”
In today’s press release, Attorney General Miller comments that Braley has worked “to prevent student loan rate increases from hurting Iowa students.”
2. Reducing the national debt and spending taxpayer money wisely
Since shortly after his narrow escape in the 2010 election, Braley has cultivated an image as a deficit hawk, framing comments on many domestic and foreign policy issues in terms of spending taxpayer dollars wisely. Last year, he even endorsed a federal constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget.
Fiscal responsibility is sure to be a theme of Braley’s Senate campaign too. From the March 28 press release:
[State Treasurer Michael] Fitzgerald said, “In a Washington defined by fiscal irresponsibility and recklessness, Bruce Braley has been a breath of fresh air, working across party lines to save taxpayers money and strengthen the middle class. We need leaders in Congress who will stand up for policies that tackle our nation’s growing debt and use taxpayer money more wisely. Bruce Braley will stand up for common sense in the Senate, and that’s why I’m proud to endorse him today.”
3. Policies to assist veterans
Several of Braley’s 2012 television commercials highlighted his efforts to fight for veterans. He frequently mentions in public that his father was a World War II veteran in the Pacific theater. During 2011 and 2012, Braley served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee; he had to give up that position this year when he was offered a seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
From the March 28 press release:
[Attorney General Tom] Miller said, “Bruce Braley fights for Iowa, plain and simple. From championing policies that have helped countless Iowa veterans to working to prevent student loan rate increases from hurting Iowa students, Bruce has never forgotten where he’s come from. He’ll be even more effective in the US Senate, and I’m proud to endorse him today.”
In a February 18 press release, the Braley campaign quoted veteran and former Representative Leonard Boswell as saying,
Bruce has been a tireless advocate for Iowa’s veterans. He’s never forgotten where he’s come from, and he’ll be an even more effective voice for us in the US Senate.”
4. The interests of Iowans in small towns and rural areas
Several of the campaign’s press releases have noted that Braley grew up in the small town of Brooklyn (Poweshiek County) and understands the needs of small towns. The opening television commercial from Braley’s 2012 campaign focused on lessons he learned growing up in Brooklyn, and I expect that he will introduce himself to voters statewide in a similar way next year.
The February 18 statement from Boswell included the following quote:
Boswell said, “Bruce Braley has earned my endorsement and support. Bruce was born in a small town, grew up in rural Iowa, and has lived in Iowa his whole life. I’ve watched him fight passionately for Iowa’s small towns, big cities, and working families.
Two labor unions associated with postal workers have endorsed Braley for Senate, and both cited his work in 2011 and 2012 to prevent the closure of rural post offices. From the March 25 statement announcing the Iowa Postal Workers Union endorsement:
Bruce Clark, president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union, said, “Bruce Braley gets things done for Iowa, and the proof is in the pudding. Bruce has worked hard to maintain postal services and maintain delivery standards for rural Iowa. He lobbied the Postal Service to keep small town Iowa post offices and Iowa mail processing facilities open, helping to save hundreds of jobs and keeping an economic lifeline open in dozens of communities. He’ll do even more for Iowa in the US Senate.”
Bruce Braley said, “I’m honored to have the Iowa Postal Workers’ endorsement. I’ve worked in Congress to stand up for working families and prevent harmful cuts to postal service in rural Iowa. I believe I’ll be an even more effective voice in the Senate to pursue policies that expand economic opportunities and create jobs.”
Braley worked successfully in Congress to keep a number of small town post offices open in Iowa and prevent mail processing facilities from closing in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.
From the March 27 press release announcing the Iowa State Association of Letter Carriers endorsement:
Jim Beach, President of the Iowa State Association of Letter Carriers, said, “We’re proud to stand with Bruce Braley in his campaign for Senate. Bruce has been an ardent supporter of maintaining six day delivery, a service that if eliminated will cut thousands of working class jobs while negatively impacting rural communities, small business owners, and a growing number of seniors who use the mail to receive their prescriptions. As postal reform moves to the forefront, he’ll be an even more effective voice for Iowa in the US Senate advocating for strengthening — not shrinking — the USPS.”
Bruce Braley said, “I’m honored to have the endorsement of the Iowa Association of Letter Carriers. I’ve fought for policies in Congress that strengthen the middle class and help preserve the economic lifeline of the USPS in communities across Iowa. In the Senate, I’ll keep fighting to create new economic opportunities for working Iowans and the communities they live in.”
5. All Iowans, regardless of party affiliation
For years, Braley has cultivated a non-partisan image; for example, he has participated in several events organized by “No Labels,” a so-called “centrist” 501(c)4 organization that does not reveal its donors.
From the March 28 campaign press release:
Braley said, “When I was growing up in Brooklyn, Iowa, and someone had a problem, they didn’t ask what party you belonged to. They asked for your help and they got it. I’m running for Senate to be an effective voice for Iowans of all backgrounds, and I’m thrilled to have Attorney General Miller and Treasurer Fitzgerald’s endorsement today.”
The final television commercial from Braley’s 2012 re-election campaign used almost exactly the same wording.
The March 15 press release announcing support from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Iowa – Local 199 included this comment from the candidate:
Rep. Bruce Braley said, “I’m honored to have the endorsement of SEIU Local 199. The men and women of SEIU get up every day and go to work to help others. That’s the approach I hope to take to the US Senate, working hard to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and reach across party lines to bring people together around policies that help Iowa.”
Any comments about next year’s U.S. Senate campaign are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Supporting small business growth and development will also be a theme of the Braley campaign, judging from this March 29 press release announcing the endorsement of State Representative Tyler Olson. Excerpt (emphasis in original):
Olson said, “I’m excited to endorse Bruce Braley for the US Senate. I make this endorsement not on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party but as an individual – and as a longtime friend and supporter. No one is better suited to be in the Senate working for Iowa than Bruce. I know he’ll fight to strengthen the middle class, stand up for veterans, and help small businesses grow and expand. I know this because I’ve watched him already accomplish so much for Iowa. It’s time we got Bruce Braley to the US Senate so he can do even more.”
Braley said, “I’m proud to have Tyler Olson’s endorsement. Not only is Tyler a friend, but he’s an experienced small businessman who brings a wealth of common sense experience to the Iowa House. I’m running for Senate to help strengthen the Iowa economy, and that means getting small businesses the resources they need to grow and expand. Tyler’s support will help us get across the finish line.”
Olson announced his endorsement during a “Facebook Chat” focused on entrepreneurship and small business growth hosted by Braley’s campaign. The online event allowed Iowans from across the state to simultaneously participate in a virtual town hall-style event and ask Braley questions.
Yesterday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald announced their endorsement of Braley. Last month, Rep. Dave Loebsack and former Rep. Leonard Boswell endorsed Braley. And eight major labor organizations have endorsed Braley, including the Iowa State Association of Letter Carriers, the Iowa Postal Workers Union, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 Iowa Union, UAW Region 4, SEIU Iowa – Local 199, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, the Iowa State
LATE UPDATE: John Deeth interviewed Braley on May 1. Excerpt:
Deeth: With this our first open seat race in 40 years, and the whole post-Citizens United dynamic, how do you keep your message going in a race like this once the outsiders start to pile on?
Braley: Well, I have done this enough to understand that you have to give voters a reason to show up and vote FOR you. You can’t just depend on voter suppression to get them not to show up and vote for your opponent. And to me that means you’ve got to find a way to inspire voters into believing that you share their values, you understand the problems and concerns they deal with on a daily basis, you’re going to be an effective listener, and you’re going to take what you’ve learned and be a strong champion for the people of this state. That’s going to be my strategy as I travel around the state talking about what I’ve done as concrete examples of bringing people together to solve tough problems, even when I was serving in the minority in the last Congress.