Quick hits on the five Democratic candidates in IA-01

The Democratic primary in the open first Congressional district will be one of Iowa’s most interesting elections next year. In addition to separate posts on major developments in the race, I plan to update Bleeding Heartland readers periodically on how all five Democrats are campaigning. The winner of the primary will go into the general election as the slight favorite given the partisan lean of this D+5 district and the voter registration advantage for Democrats there.

Follow me after the jump for recent news about each of the contenders.

Taking the candidates in alphabetical order:

Swati Dandekar

Dandekar is working on reassuring Democrats that she shares their values. On August 11, she posted this announcement on Facebook:

“Like President Obama, Senator Claire McCaskill, Former President Bill Clinton, and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton my views on Marriage Equality have evolved. Marrying the person you love is part of the American Dream, and committed, loving same sex couples deserve the right to do so.”

As an Iowa House member in 2005, Dandekar voted for a state constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages and civil unions. However, following the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Varnum v Brien, she did not join Republican efforts to bring a marriage amendment to a vote in the Iowa Senate. A handful of Democratic state lawmakers went out of their way to say they opposed same-sex marriage rights at that time.

Dandekar also commented on the Voting Rights Act last week:

“It has been 48 years since President Johnson signed the Voters Rights Act, but now with the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down a major component of the Act, the right for all Americans to vote is once more under attack. The universal right to vote is the most basic foundation of our democracy. As a member of Congress I will defend and protect every American’s right to vote. Voting is a precious right for all of us- regardless of race, gender or age. It is a part of the American Dream.”

Dandekar is expected to raise plenty of money to run a district-wide campaign. Her strategy is to focus voters’ attention on her future plans and not on her decision to resign her Iowa Senate seat in 2011.

UPDATE: I should also have mentioned that Dandekar and former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, who is advising her campaign, both attended last week’s EMILY’s List event in Des Moines.

Anesa Kajtazovic

Having finished her 20-county “listening tour,” Kajtazovic continues to attend events around the district, such as a Firefighters Convention and a discussion with retired members of the United Auto Workers.

In a Facebook post on August 6, Kajtazovic thanked State Senator Jeff Danielson and former State Representative Don Shoultz of Waterloo for their support. Danielson was just re-elected to a third term representing Cedar Falls and Waterloo and considered the IA-01 race himself earlier this year. I had not seen any official announcement of his endorsement, but Danielson confirmed by e-mail that he is supporting Kajtazovic for Congress.

Kajtazovic attended a “Madam President” forum organized by EMILY’s List in Des Moines last week. EMILY’s List supports pro-choice, Democratic women candidates. They sometimes endorse in primaries, but I am skeptical that they will endorse in IA-01 with three pro-choice women in the same primary.

Pat Murphy

The former Iowa House speaker announced last week that his Congressional campaign has passed the 1,000 donor mark. He posts regularly on Facebook about attending house parties and local Democratic events around IA-01. Former State Representative Nate Willems hosted a house party for Murphy in Mount Vernon last week.

Murphy periodically comments on federal policies and has recently emphasized his commitment to “the full enactment of the Affordable Care Act” and Congress restoring the Voting Rights Act.

Dave O’Brien

O’Brien’s “elevator speech” for his campaign is as follows:

I’m running for Congress to be a fighter for the progressive values that I know will rebuild the middle class and secure a better future for families like those in the 1st District.

Although Murphy received AFSCME’s official endorsement last month, O’Brien is also reaching out to members of the largest union for Iowa public employees. In his view, “Organized labor and collective bargaining are essential to rebuilding the middle class in America.”

Earlier this week, O’Brien held a fundraiser in his home town of Sioux City, where he ran for Congress against Fred Grandy in 1988. The announced his candidacy last month, so third-quarter fundraising will be an important indicator of whether he will have the resources to run a district-wide primary campaign. None of the candidates has a big war chest so far.

Monica Vernon

The Cedar Rapids City Council member has been attending public events around the district, including Irish Fest in Waterloo, the Poweshiek County Democrats summer potluck, and an “Act on Climate” bus stop in Cedar Rapids. I haven’t seen many comments on public policy from her campaign, but Vernon is promising to protect Social Security and Medicare and highlighting the “made in the USA” stamp on her campaign swag.

Like Kajtazovic, Vernon went to the EMILY’s List forum in Des Moines on August 9. The Republican Party’s extreme positions on abortion rights and other social issues were a key reason Vernon became a Democrat in 2009.  

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