Former State Senator Swati Dandekar appears to be leaning toward another run for Congress in Iowa’s first district, Richard Springer reported for the India West newspaper yesterday. Follow me after the jump for first thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses Dandekar would take into a second Congressional campaign.
(hat tip to John Deeth)
Dandekar told Springer,
“I am doing my homework, talking to my friends and I feel very positive on what I am hearing.” […]
“I am talking to people about my agenda, which includes education – which has been my passion – creating manufacturing jobs and immigration.” She said she supported the immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate last summer and is preparing position papers on jobs creation, education and other issues of concern to Iowans. […]
She has been talking with the Democratic leadership and will make her decision by this summer, she said. What she has been hearing so far is all positive, she added.
Dandekar is an experienced campaigner. She served six years on the Linn-Mar Community School District Board, then six years in the Iowa House representing parts of the Cedar Rapids suburbs, then three years of a four-year term in the Iowa Senate before taking a position with the Iowa Utilities Board in 2011. She stepped down from that job in order to run for Congress in 2014.
In last year’s five-way Democratic primary, Dandekar finished third and raised nearly $700,000 for her campaign. That’s more than nominee Pat Murphy raised before the primary election and nearly as much as Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who finished second behind Murphy.
Dandekar’s entry into this race would not be welcome news for Vernon, the the current front-runner in the 2016 primary race. Vernon’s base in Linn County overlaps with Dandekar’s. About two-thirds of Dandekar’s 5,076 votes and about 60 percent of Vernon’s 6,559 votes in last year’s primary came from Linn County, the most populous in the district.
The other declared Democratic candidate in IA-01 is Ravi Patel, who like Dandekar is Indian-American. The Indian-American community provided strong support for Dandekar in her last campaign. While Patel is a newcomer to electoral politics, Dandekar is a past winner of the Asian Pacific American person of the year award.
The biggest challenge for Dandekar in a Democratic primary will be her moderate to conservative record. Her most prominent supporter during the last campaign was former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge. Some progressives and labor advocates still have hard feelings over certain positions Dandekar took as a state legislator. Other Democrats resent her for putting the Iowa Senate majority in jeopardy when she resigned before the end of her term.
With no competitive statewide primaries for the GOP next year, and Representative Rod Blum unlikely to face a serious challenger from his own party, Dandekar might be able to get more crossover votes from moderate Republicans in 2016 than she did in the last IA-01 primary.
Any comments about this race are welcome in this thread. Former Governor Chet Culver and Cedar Falls-area activist Gary Kroeger have also said they may seek the Democratic nomination in IA-01, although Kroeger seems much more likely to go for it than Culver.