IA-01: Patty Judge advising Swati Dandekar's campaign

Former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is advising former State Senator Swati Dandekar’s campaign for Iowa’s first Congressional district, James Q. Lynch reports for the Cedar Rapids Gazette today. The article also includes comments from Dandekar and Judge on perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Dandekar’s candidacy: the perception that she risked the Iowa Senate majority in 2011.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Lynch’s article and a few thoughts about why accepting a position on the Iowa Utilities Board will likely be a problem for Dandekar in the IA-01 primary.

When news of Dandekar’s Congressional aspirations first broke in April, Judge had kind things to say, calling Dandekar a “strong woman,” “good campaigner and a better fundraiser than many,” and “a moderate Democrat who has been true to her convictions.” Today’s article by Lynch quotes Judge as an adviser to Dandekar, dismissing speculation that the move to the Iowa Utilities Board will be a “defining issue” in the primary.

There’s a long history of Democrats who have left office to take other positions “including me, Tom Vilsack and Leonard Boswell,” Judge said. The three of them left the Senate to run for Iowa secretary of agriculture, governor and the U.S. House, respectively.

“I don’t think it’s a terrible black mark on her or me or Tom,” she said. “It won’t be the defining issue.”

What’s more, Judge said the “people who really count, people from the district, people she will represent and has represented, they know her and know she has the interest of the district at heart and will work hard for them.” […]

Voters are interested in the future, “in today’s issues, not issues from two or three years ago,” Judge said.

Dandekar is a good fit for Patty Judge, who has long supported women candidates and was a corporate-friendly Democratic office-holder herself. But Judge is glossing over a few things here. Neither she nor Tom Vilsack nor Leonard Boswell decided to seek higher office while Democrats had only a one-seat Iowa Senate majority, against a backdrop of Republicans on the march in other states.

Lynch quotes Dandekar as saying voters like her “independent streak” and want to know her plans for the future. Regarding her resignation, Dandekar said, “The control of the Senate was never in doubt with Liz Mathis as the candidate.”

I believe Dandekar will continue to face tough questions from Democrats in IA-01 about her decision in 2011. She may have been confident that the Senate majority was safe in Mathis’ hands, but consider an activist’s perspective. Iowa Democrats had just come off a horrible election cycle, losing six state Senate seats in 2010 and nearly a seventh in what should have been a safe district. Republicans were passing all kinds of horrible legislation in states where they had the “trifecta,” like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Dandekar announced her resignation on September 16, 2011. Democrats had only a 26-24 Senate majority, and the district Dandekar was vacating looked very competitive on paper. Outsiders didn’t know that the popular former television news journalist Liz Mathis would be the Democratic candidate until September 20. We didn’t know that there would be a contentious district convention for the GOP nomination, or that Iowa Senate Republicans would get distracted by a leadership challenge during the special election campaign, or that Democrats and progressive outside groups would run a superior early voter drive. In retrospect, it’s easy to say that Mathis won the special election convincingly and had no trouble holding the reconfigured Senate district last year, but that can’t erase the fears many Iowa Democrats had in September and October 2011.

I don’t mean to deny that some voters in IA-01 appreciate a moderate candidate with an independent streak, but that’s not often a path to victory in a Democratic primary. Furthermore, Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon will be competing with Dandekar for moderates in Linn County. Liberals may suspect Vernon as a relatively recent member of the Democratic Party, but Vernon doesn’t have baggage related to legislative votes either.

Any comments about the IA-01 campaign are welcome in this thread.

  • fundraising

    Any person who enters or entered this race after Murphy and Vernon are going to have an uphill battle in the money race. The only chance Dandekar would have had was if she had announced before any other CRapids candidate and pounced on the early money.

    The fact that Gov. Branstad knew which state senator would take the bait tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

    If I were a betting man, I would bet that when it is all said and done, Murphy and Vernon may be the only ones left standing come June 2014. It’s all about the Benjamins ladies and gentlemen.

    I bet few Iowa Dems have returned SD’s phone calls since 2011, and I suspect that potential donors will follow that lead.  

    • I'm sure she will have some donors

      They must have been sounding people out this spring. Senator Wally Horn is co-chairing her campaign and has a lot of connections too, obviously.

      If Anesa Kajtazovic runs, she will have a serious chance in the primary.  

      • just curious

        what is the most money AK has ever raised for a campaign (not counting money given by the Truman fund)?

        • don't know the exact amount

          but she does not have a large base of individual donors. Looking at her campaign finance reports filed last July, October, and shortly before election day, the largest share of her donations came from PACs and labor organizations that give to many state legislators. Most of those groups probably wouldn’t be taking sides in a Congressional primary.

          As Anesa Kajtazovic explores a Congressional campaign, she will need to think about the fundraising side. She doesn’t have to raise the most money, but she needs enough to do some advertising and direct mail district-wide.

  • Facts from Cedar Rapids

    Being extremely active in city politics in Cedar Rapids has given me a FRONT ROW VIEW of Monica Vernon.

    Monica has made very good use of our 2008 flood money to forge new relationships with those in power and those who have pulled the strings at the various levels of government to get Cedar Rapids more Federal and State funds for unnecessary and misprioritized projects – funds she and the rest of the City leaders basically claim are “free.” Is that someone we want in Congress?

    The waste of these funds is astonishing! Her choices, together with her inconsistencies in word and deed, as well as her deceit to the taxpayers, are tragic!

    For instance, the residents of Cedar Rapids could not understand why the City would not rebuild the (flooded) Public Library on the same site. Citizens wanted to save the money and remain there and put a parking garage underneath. People here have also complained that in this day and age of technology, we do not need such a huge and fancy library that the City has now built.

    However, Vernon was determined to relocate it to the TrueNorth site. She stated in her 2011 reelection debate that the Feds said it was “imperative” to get out of there. This was a blatant lie. The fact is that FEMA wanted us to remain there and raise the library a foot above the flood plain. Cedar Rapids leaders appealed several times to get permission to relocate it – costing taxpayers millions more.

    In February 2010, Vernon voted to relocate the library to TrueNorth. In March 2010, Busse Investments sold that $1.5 million property to TrueNorth for $3.6 million.  Six months later, September 28th, Vernon approved buying the property from TrueNorth for $7.5 million.

    In addition, she supported nearly giving away the old Public Library site to TrueNorth for $250,000 along with ten years of property tax exemptions. Yes, TrueNorth rehabilitated and remodeled our old library.

    December 14, 2010, Vernon approved using $4 million of our Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) “to cover the $4 million gap between the appraised value … and the actual cost.”  (No kidding!) Vernon supported giving TrueNorth nearly a $4 million profit from our LOST.

    This is just one example of the deceit and wasteful spending of Monica Vernon over the past several years. For those who are impressed at how she raised so much money, possibly finding out the whole story will change your mind. Follow the money.

    Swati Dandekar, a proven moderate Democrat and practically guaranteed to be elected in the General Election, supports fiscal responsibility, oversight and transparency. These are traits that have not existed with Vernon during her term as Cedar Rapids Councilwoman.

  • Dandekar

    Swati probably realizes that this is probably her last chance to run for Congress in an open seat race.  She’s got donors from all the country that she can tap into.  I certainly don’t think she will win the primary, but she figures she doesn’t have much to lose.  It is kind of like Dodd and Richardson running for President, they kind of just wanted the experience and maybe to influence the discussion,

    She was involved with Hillary’s campaign in 2008 so I assume Dandekar has more connections than some people may realize.  I know the Clintons would probably love to campaign for Anesa because her story is kind of a verification of Clinton’s foreign policy.  

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