Ravi Patel exits IA-01 Democratic primary

Ravi Patel announced yesterday that he is no longer running for Congress in Iowa’s first district. I enclose below the full statement from the Patel for Iowa website, which says “it has become clear” that a “tough battle for the Democratic primary nomination” would “have diverted energy and resources that should be directed at changing the course of our nation.” Patel added that he will be able to have more influence on “public life in Northeast Iowa […] through the private sector.” He will offer full refunds to campaign contributors, who donated more than half a million dollars during the first quarter of this year alone.

I have no idea what prompted Patel’s decision. The stated reason makes no sense, as “it has been clear” for months that Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the front-runner in this primary, and that she would also raise significant campaign funds. Factor in Patel’s youth and the fact that he has mostly lived in IA-02, and there was never any reason for him to think winning the primary wouldn’t be a “tough battle.” Backers were allegedly getting ready to launch a super-PAC to support his candidacy, a move without precedent in this state.

Before we assume Patel still has a future in Iowa politics, let’s wait to learn more about why he quit this race. Pat Rynard cited a Dubuque Telegraph-Herald article from a few days ago, which showed that Patel “didn’t have much of an answer on some basic issues Congress would face, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and dealing with ISIS.” I find it hard to imagine any highly-motivated candidate would drop out because of some bad press nearly a year before the primary. Rynard speculated that Patel made a “mature” decision to end a candidacy with a low probability of success. If so, good for him, but count me among the cynics waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Patel’s exit leaves Vernon and Gary Kroeger as the only declared Democratic candidates in IA-01. Vernon will be heavily favored. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third behind Pat Murphy and Vernon in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, is considering a repeat bid here. Winning the Democratic nomination would be an uphill battle for Dandekar for various reasons.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. IA-01 Representative Rod Blum is widely considered to be one of the most vulnerable Congressional incumbents.

UPDATE: Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) endorsed Vernon on June 24: “She has proven that she is committed to improving the lives of Iowa’s working families. I look forward to having her in Congress along side of me, fighting for the people of Iowa.” Loebsack lived and worked in Linn County (now the most populous in IA-01) for most of his adult life and represented the county in Congress from 2007 through 2012, when it was part of the second district.

Added below statements from Vernon and Kroeger on Patel dropping out.

Full text of statement posted on Patel for Iowa website, June 23:

PATEL TO WITHDRAW FROM CONGRESSIONAL RACE

Importance of Unity Cited

First congressional district candidate Ravi Patel announced today he was withdrawing from contention in the primary race to challenge Congressman Rod Blum. Patel cited the importance of unity within the Democratic Party and returning to leadership within the private sector to impact Iowa communities.

“For me, running for Congress was a great chance to tell my story, to inspire people, and to advocate for the change we need. But it has become clear that doing so would ensure a tough battle for the Democratic primary nomination. That battle would have diverted energy and resources that should be directed at changing the course of our nation. Such a battle would not be good for the district, for the Party, or for the nominee.”

“On a more personal note, I’ve come to realize that my most significant impact on public life in Northeast Iowa will ultimately be through the private sector, which has always allowed me to have a meaningful and genuine impact on the lives around me through job creation, entrepreneurial development, and community mentorship. Given the realities of our political system today, I also came to realize that my personal and professional strengths are best suited for impact through the private sector. I’m excited to maintain such an active role within our district but simply in a different capacity moving forward and so for this reason I am withdrawing from the race for Congress. I am extremely grateful and overwhelmed by the show of support I received.”

Patel will be reaching out to his contributors to offer a full refund of their contributions. He noted he would remain active in political life and invested in the issues he’s concerned about.

“I’m not finished with political activism. Through hard work, I’ve been successful in business, and I am looking forward to serving the public good as a citizen and activist.”

“I’ve spoken with the two other candidates in the race, and I have told them I will be as helpful as I can to them both. For me, if I am not running, the most important thing is to have a candidate who can defeat the incumbent and restore the values our party stands for.”

Statement from Gary Kroeger, June 23:

Thank you, Ravi Patel, for your work and commitment to Iowa. While the announcement of your departure from the race this afternoon surprised us all, I am confident that you will have an incredible impact on our state. I am personally grateful that throughout this primary process, we’ve been able to connect on our shared vision for a progressive state with thriving opportunities for all Iowans.

I am grateful for your friendship and I look forward to working with you in the future to ensure that Iowa remains the land of opportunity.

Statement from Monica Vernon, June 23:

Ravi called me this afternoon to let me know he was withdrawing his candidacy. He has been a formidable opponent in this race and I strongly applaud him on a well run campaign. Ravi’s leadership from the private sector and his encouragement to get more people involved on a grassroots level will make our party stronger going into 2016. I look forward to us all working together to win this seat back for hardworking Iowa families.

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