IA-01: Courtney Rowe running, Jeff Danielson and Brent Oleson considering

A second candidate is seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s first Congressional district, a top-tier target for Democrats nationally. Two other potential contenders confirmed today that they haven’t ruled out joining the field later this year.

Courtney Rowe, an aeronautical engineer and former Bernie Sanders delegate from Cedar Rapids, has been actively exploring a challenge to Republican incumbent Rod Blum since January. She told Bleeding Heartland yesterday that she has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Rowe’s campaign is on Facebook here. I enclose below more biographical information on the candidate and excerpts from James Q. Lynch’s story in today’s Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Democratic State Representative Abby Finkenauer made her candidacy in IA-01 official a few weeks ago. You can listen to an early version of her stump speech here.

State Senator Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls and Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson were among other Democrats thinking about this race earlier in the year. Danielson told Bleeding Heartland today,

I am doing the homework necessary to make a final decision. I am unlikely to publicly declare prior to close of third quarter. Whether I run or not, Democrats need marked improvements in both campaign message and turnout mechanics if they hope to win the 1st District. We must run a goal oriented, base-plus campaign, even in the primary.

For his part, Oleson said,

I have not ruled it out. At this time the field is not one that gives me confidence that Democrats will prevail. I stand by earlier comments that I would want early support from Unions & Conservation groups that are serious about reclaiming the seat. Without that I remain a non-candidate at this point.

Former State Senator Steve Sodders ruled out running for Congress last month.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 161,355 active registered Democrats, 143,269 Republicans, and 187,099 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, where Blum and Finkenauer live.

The northeast part of Iowa swung heavily toward Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans in the 2016 general election.

Biography from the Courtney Rowe for Congress Facebook page:

Courtney has a B.S. from Purdue University in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, with a minor in both Aerospace Studies (Air Force ROTC) and Political Science. Currently she works as a Sr Systems Engineer in Commercial Systems Fly-by-wire Flight Controls.

In the community, she currently serves as the Treasurer of PFLAG. She has served as an engineering mentor for the middle school Future City competition. In college she served in the Air Force Reserves, and as Regional Executive Officer for Region VI for Silver Wings, a professional organization dedicated to creating proactive, knowledgeable, and effective civic leaders through community service and education about national defense. In the past she has served on multiple church mission boards, served as a mission board chair, and on a search and call committee. Faith is an important part of her life. She is married to Raven, who serves as the chaplain in the behavioral health and chemical dependency units at a local hospital.

She has volunteered on several campaigns, both presidential and local (including Obama, Sanders, Vernon, and Bennett). She is involved in the local Democratic Party, serving as an Associate Member on the Linn County Democratic Central Committee. She attended the county, district, state, and national conventions in 2016 as a delegate (1st District Alt to National Convention) and as a credentials committee member (district, state, national).

At the state convention, she added two planks to the Iowa Democratic State Platform through petition, and floor vote. This included creating single sheet background papers to explain complex technical issues to a non-technical audience. One was to support the research and the removal of Orbital Debris, which currently threatens our satellites in LEO, including those monitoring and collecting data on Climate Change. The second was on responsible Patent Reform. There are efforts to make patents only valuable to large corporations, by making it legally impractical for small entities to defend their patents. This could be disastrous to our scientific and engineering research communities. One of these disastrous bills was authored by Iowa’s very own Sen Grassley.

What’s the purpose of this campaign?
I believe those running for office have the responsibility to bring ideas and plans to the table. Yes winning an election doesn’t mean all your ideas will be implemented, but if we don’t elect people with ideas who want to solve problems, we get the lack of progress we continue to see from our legislature. I will have several plans, but the most important one will be a deficit neutral green energy plan that will put Americans to work, while reducing our reliance on oil and gas. This campaign will center on helping every American become their most productive self. American Innovation creates American Opportunity. When we are all able to pursue our best possible careers, our economy will be the strongest, and our ability to invest in education, clean energy, infrastructure, and the health and well being of our citizens, will be maximized. Good plans don’t just balance these initiatives, but actually serve more than one simultaneously.

Why run now and not wait?
There are many things that concern me about the newly elected administration, but I think our environment is at the greatest risk. I had thought ‘one day I’ll run for office’. Now I don’t think it can wait.

From James Q. Lynch’s story for the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

A senior systems engineer in commercial systems fly-by-wire flight controls, Rowe wants to take a systematic approach to those issues. She rejects the idea that every decision “comes down to the energy versus the environment or the environment versus the economy.” […]

For example, Rowe is proposing a deficient [sic] neutral green energy plan that she believes will create business opportunities and put people to work while making the nation more energy secure and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One part of her plan is changing Federal Housing Administration mortgage regulations to allow homeowners to finance clean energy improvements over 20 to 30 years.

It will help make homes more energy efficient and create a customer base for alternative energy companies, which will result in more jobs and more investment in clean energy.

“And it doesn’t cost the government anything,” she said.

Overall, her emphasis will be on improving the economy for the working class and middle class.

UPDATE: Thomas Barton of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald reported on Rowe’s campaign on June 4.

Rowe thinks voters might want a more straightforward approach to dealing with issues centered around job creation, education and workforce development.

To that end, she said her campaign will focus “our ability to invest in education, clean energy, infrastructure, and the health and well-being of our citizens.” […]

When it comes to raising capital, Rowe asks, what if the stock market worked the same for a small business on Main Street as it does a large company on Wall Street?

Stock markets have primarily benefited large public companies with the resources to absorb the regulatory and administrative cost of raising capital. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and small businesses traditionally have been limited to raising capital in the private market, through small business loans, credit cards or a few select venture capitalists, Rowe said.

She also supports a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Danielson spoke to Pat Kinney of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier:

“You’ll have six or seven (Democratic candidates) by the time it’s all over with,” Danielson said. “Competition is good. And we need it. I’m absolutely convinced Democrats need to make some improvements in their campaign message and turnout mechanics. I think we need to have a public, family discussion. We’re not real good about winning right now. And that’s because campaigns have been driven from Des Moines and D.C.”

Danielson said if he runs, “I’m absolutely adamant this will be a campaign that people can be a part of, and be run locally.” He said it would be a “base-plus” campaign, reaching out beyond the party base.

“You have to speak to a larger audience,” he said. “We’re wishing for voters that aren’t there, rather than understand the voters that are in front of us,” seeking their ideas on issues and solutions to problems “and still keep our values.

“I believe you’re going to have to do that in the primary, publicly, rather than behind the scenes in Des Moines or D.C.” Danielson said, adding that insistence on “purity tests” is “hogwash.” He said there doesn’t have to be another of a string of election losses “to apply some lessons learned.”

During an interview with KXEL Radio’s Jeff Stein on June 1, Blum confirmed he will seek a third term. Cristinia Crippes reported for the Courier,

Though he hadn’t planned to officially announce his intentions, Blum had a list of about five platform items he says he’ll run on in the 2018 campaign.

“Same thing I’ve always been running on: Drain the swamp. First and foremost,” Blum said.

He said he has a package of bills he plans to release later this year that he has either sponsored or co-sponsored that aim to “drain the swamp,” or reduce perks for federally elected officials that make them out of touch with average Americans.

His bills, many of which were introduced during the past session but did not get a vote, include enacting term limits, eliminating taxpayer-funded first-class air travel and luxury car leases, a lifetime ban on lobbying, tying congressional pay to that of the average American and cutting congressional pay if the budget isn’t balanced.

“I hope with the new president who wants to drain the swamp that one or more of those will be voted on; that’d be great,” Blum said.

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