Stacey Walker may run for Congress in IA-01

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker may seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s first Congressional district, he confirmed yesterday to Bleeding Heartland.

I am considering joining the primary contest for the 1st Congressional District because Iowans deserve a competitive primary. Retaking this seat is an important step in moving this state and this country in a new direction. We need a strong candidate to emerge from the field that can articulate a progressive message that works for all people. We need a candidate that can stand on a stage with Rod Blum and present voters with a clear choice. We need a candidate that can energize the base and bring new voters into the fold.

It is my hope to have a final decision in the very near future.

Although Walker was first elected to the Linn County Board of Supervisors only last year, some Democrats have been encouraging the Cedar Rapids native to seek higher office sooner rather than later. He is a talented speaker with a strong commitment to social justice and other progressive issues. Former Congressional candidate Gary Kroeger made the case for Walker here.

State Representative Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque and Cedar Rapids-based engineer Courtney Rowe are the only declared Democratic candidates in a what will be a targeted race in 2018. Finkenauer is the early favorite. She has already hired staff and been endorsed by seven six current state lawmakers, six five of whom represent parts of IA-01: State Representatives Liz Bennett, Todd Taylor, and Kirsten Running-Marquardt of Cedar Rapids, State Representative Ras Smith of Waterloo, and State Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque. (CORRECTION: Although Representative Timi Brown-Powers of Waterloo was initially listed as a supporter of Finkenauer, she later told the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier, “I will be holding off any endorsement until the field [in IA-01] further manifests itself.”) A number of county party leaders and Democrats with strong ties to organized labor are also backing Finkenauer. The former Bernie Sanders delegate Rowe is running an underdog campaign, less focused on fundraising and establishment support.

In addition to Walker, at least three others are seriously considering joining the Democratic field: former Tom Harkin staffer and U.S. Department of Labor official Thomas Heckroth, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, and State Senator Jeff Danielson, who represents part of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 161,046 active registered Democrats, 143,177 Republicans, and 187,422 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Linn County, including the Cedar Rapids metro area, is the largest by population, followed by Black Hawk County (Waterloo/Cedar Falls) and Dubuque County.

Once considered a “one-term wonder,” Representative Rod Blum of Dubuque won re-election last year by a larger margin (53.7 percent to 46.1 percent) than he had managed in the 2014 GOP landslide. No doubt the Republican incumbent benefited from a huge swing to Donald Trump in northeast Iowa. That said, Blum ran about five points ahead of Trump, suggesting that an unpopular president alone will not be enough to sink his chances for a third term.

Blum’s unprincipled vote for the American Health Care Act (after making a big show of opposing the health care bill in March) will likely be a central issue for the Democratic nominee, along with his support for tax and economic policies that favor big business and wealthy individuals over the middle class.

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