State Rep. Pat Murphy is better known and earns stronger support from voters than his rivals in the five-way race for the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District, according to a poll commissioned by his campaign.
With 36 percent support, Murphy has a “commanding lead,” according to his campaign manager Aaron Bly, who cited the poll findings showing the former Iowa House speaker is better known, has higher favorability ratings and his message resonates better with Democrats. By Iowa law, a candidate must receive 35 percent of the primary vote to win.
“We’re excited that it shows a strong path to victory for Pat,” Bly said about the Myers Research & Strategic Services poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters Feb. 13-14.
Myers found that Murphy’s 36 percent support was more than double the 17 percent who supported Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon. Swati Dandekar of Marion, a former lawmaker and state utilities board member, followed with 13 percent. Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo was favored by 11 percent, and Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien by 8 percent.
Murphy’s strength – his 25 years in state politics -- may be his weakness, according to his rivals’ campaigns.
“It’s no surprise that a career politician starts with an advantage of high name identification – particularly with so many candidates running,” said Brenda Kole, Vernon’s campaign manager.
She’s encouraged by the support voters gave Vernon, who entered the race months after Murphy.
“It’s clear people are looking for an alternative to a career politician,” Kole said.
Sam Roecker isn’t discouraged by O’Brien’s showing in the poll because “Dave is the only candidate who has not run for public office before and voters are still being introduced to him.”
His message and fresh perspective make O’Brien “exactly the kind of candidate that can break through a crowded field like this,” Roecker said.
For comparison’s sake, Roecker offered a January 2006 poll showing Bill Gluba leading a three-way field for the Democratic nomination with 30 percent. Waterloo attorney Bruce Braley was last with 8 percent.
“We all know how that race turned out,” Roecker said. Braley won the nomination and is serving his fourth term in the U.S. House. The 1st District seat is open because Braley is running for the U.S. Senate.
Majda Sarkic has a similar perspective about her candidate, 28-year-old Kajtazovic, a second-term Iowa House member.
“This will be a competitive election and I am confident that when voters hear Anesa’s story and find out more about her values, they will come to the conclusion that she is the best candidate to fight for economic fairness for regular people in Iowa,” Sarkic said.
The message that will resonate with voters, according to Ben Gaines, is Dandekar’s pro-business record and her history as a “tireless worker for economic development and job growth.”
“That's why John Deere and the other major employers in the first district are lining up behind Swati,” he said, “and that's why she's going to win.”
A political action committee at John Deere, the district’s largest employer, endorsed Dandekar earlier this week, he said.According to the polling firm, Murphy’s lead grew after voters were read positive messages about the candidates. He opened a 40-20 percent lead over Vernon. Dandekar and Kajtazovic were at 12 percent and O’Brien fell to 5 percent. However, no positive message about O’Brien was included, according to the Murphy campaign.