Seventy-six countries around the world have a higher percentage of women in their national legislatures than the United States. Iowa is one of very few states that has never sent a woman to Congress. The open seat in Iowa’s first Congressional district is a perfect chance to leave Mississippi in the dust. Yet so far, no women have announced plans to run for the seat Bruce Braley is vacating. Three men are in the race for sure: Pat Murphy, Steve Rathje, and Rod Blum. Steve Sodders is strongly considering it and visited Washington last week to talk with Democrats about the race. UPDATE: Sodders has ruled out running for Congress.
The last time IA-01 was open, four Democratic men and three Republican men sought to replace Jim Nussle. Are we looking at a repeat?
For years, academic researchers have shown that “when women run for office, they perform just as well as men.” But they don’t run for office as often as men do for lots of reasons. A new study suggests that from a young age, women are less likely than men to consider running for office someday (full report here).
Iowa Democratic Party leaders should be working to recruit a top-tier female candidate in IA-01, a Democratic-leaning seat that presents the best opportunity of my lifetime to send a woman to Congress. But that’s not going to happen when party chair Tyler Olson is thinking about running for Congress himself. Republican Party of Iowa leaders should also be looking for a strong woman candidate to capitalize on Democrats’ strategic error. I doubt that “liberating” thought would ever cross the minds of the “Liberty” gang running the Iowa GOP.
Sisters are going to have to do it for ourselves. Whether that’s the “50-50 in 2020” organization co-chaired by former women elected officials and candidates or some informal group of political activists, it’s time to identify and encourage women to step up to the plate in IA-01–before the early declared candidates get a large advantage in fundraising and endorsements.