Waterloo Democratic lawmaker exploring U.S. House 1st District race

At the age of 24, Kajtazovic became the youngest woman elected to the Iowa House

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March 29, 2014 | 4:31 am

CEDAR RAPIDS – The field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District continues to grow.

State Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo has joined the field, announcing Sunday that she’s forming an exploratory committee. She plans to tour the 20-county 1st District to meet with voters before deciding whether to enter the June 2014 Democratic primary election.

Two candidates -- Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon – already are running for the nomination to the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for the Senate.

Another two Democrats – former state lawmaker Swati Dandekar of Marion, now a member of the Iowa Utilities Board, and Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien – are considering the race.

Kajtazovic, who is serving her second term in the Iowa House, said she’s exploring the race because people are frustrated with Congress and want new leadership.

“I feel an obligation … a duty to give my potential candidacy greater consideration,” Kajtazovic said.

“Our country is at a critical juncture where many people are losing faith in the ability of government to address their concerns,” she said. “We need leaders in Washington who can address these issues, fight for the middle class and restore the faith in our democracy.”

Kajtazovic was 10 years old when in 1997 her family moved to Waterloo from a refugee camp in war-torn Bosnia. Watching her father work two jobs and her mother struggle with a work-related injury helped motivate her to succeed.

After high school, she earned a double major in business and public administration in three years at the University of Northern Iowa.

In 2010, at the age of 24, she became the youngest woman elected to the Iowa House and the only Bosnian-American elected to office in the country, according to Kajtazovic.

Kajtazovic has worked for mortgage and insurance companies.

In the House, Kajtazovic has served on the Commerce, Ways and Means, Veterans Affairs, Local Government and State Government committees, and the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Among the legislation she offered during the 2013 session were bills calling for the Board of Regents to be more transparent, more campaign disclosures by corporations and a resolution for Genocide Awareness Month.

The Republican field, so far, consists of businessmen Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque. Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is expected to enter the race this summer.

The 1st District stretches from Marshalltown north to Minnesota and east to the Mississippi River. It includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque.

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