Iowa 1st District contenders play ‘away game’ at forum Tuesday

Two Republican candidates not participating in Des Moines event

James Q. Lynch
Published: February 17 2014 | 11:38 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:46 am in

Seven of the nine candidates hoping to represent Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District will participate in a forum Tuesday, a forum outside the district.

Five Democrats and two of four Republican hopefuls will participate in 90-minute forum Tuesday during the annual meeting of the Iowa Credit Union League in Des Moines.

Voters back in the 20-county 1st District, which doesn’t include or abut Polk County, can watch the forum – not a debate – live at beginning at 10:25 a.m. Feb. 18.

Despite the fact they have to travel outside the district to participate, the candidates hoping to succeed four-term Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley are eager to share the stage at the credit union meeting.

“Their organization represents thousands of members within the district,” explained Aaron Bly, campaign manager for Iowa Rep. Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque. “He has seen how credit unions have supported communities in Iowa like Dubuque and will continue fighting for them in Congress.”

State Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, also is a big supporter, according to his spokesman Josh Wilson, who noted there are nearly 280,000 credit union members in the 1st District.

Rogers has received endorsements and financial support from credit union organizations in the past “and would be glad to receive their support for this race,” Wilson said.

Endorsements are made by the Credit Union Legislative Action Council on an election-by-election basis depending on a candidate’s support for the league’s priorities, according to Jon Murphy, Iowa Credit Union League’s director of governmental relations. The forum will allow league members to hear where candidates stand on those issues as well as broader jobs and economy topics.

Other candidates welcomed the opportunity to speak to those issues.

“Monica is looking forward to not only sharing her positions on issues important to credit unions, but also sharing her ideas on promoting economic growth, creating jobs and more opportunities,” said Brenda Kole, campaign manager for Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon.

Credit unions help small business gain access to capital and “their continued success is critical to keeping the rural economy strong,” said Sam Roecker of Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien’s campaign. “With more credit union members in the 1st District than any other congressional district in Iowa, it’s important that the next member of congress from this district know and understand their importance.”

Regardless of location, the forum is an opportunity for former state legislator Swati Dandekar “to highlight her experience as a leader on issues of commerce and economic growth,” her spokesman, Ben Gaines, said. She was, he pointed out, ranking member and vice chairwoman of the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee and represented House Democrats in creating the Iowa Power Fund.

State Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic, D-Waterloo, also is participating.

Republicans Rod Blum of Dubuque and Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids are not participating. Blum had a prior commitment inside the district, spokesman Matt Schneider said. However, Blum is looking forward to participating in a pair of candidate forums in April and campaigning with Steve Forbes this spring.

GOP hopeful Gail Boliver of Marshalltown stopped short of calling their non-participation a mistake, but noted it “seems to me all the Democratic candidates are attending.”

Or maybe they don’t want to share the stage with Rogers, his spokesman said.

“Either they’re avoiding being on stage with Walt or they’re avoiding appearing in front of an organization that represents nearly half the voters in the district,” Wilson said. “Either way it seems like a mistake.”

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