Iowa 1st District hopeful O’Brien touts litigation as model for improving Congress

James Q. Lynch
Published: March 7 2014 | 2:08 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:17 am in

On the list of the “20 sleaziest ways to make a living,” lawyers rank 16th – between oil company executives and soap opera stars.

That didn’t stop Iowa 1st District Democratic hopeful Dave O’Brien arguing that his experience as a trial attorney makes him the best candidate to succeed U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley.

In a Friday morning debate, O’Brien claimed Braley as a his role model and said he is more like the four-term Democrat than any of the other candidates. Like Braley, he said, his experience as a litigator has prepared him to work with congressional Republicans, who are expected to maintain their majority after the 2014 election.

O’Brien and four others seeking the Democratic nomination for the open 1st District seat – Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon, Rep. Pat Murphy, Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic and former lawmaker Swati Dandekar – debated on KWWL-TV.

Asked what they would do to lessen the partisanship in Congress, all of the candidates indicated a willingness to work across party lines to resolve issues

Murphy cited his 25 years of legislative experience, including time as speaker of the House and as minority leader.

As a mother, small business owner and city councilwoman, Vernon said she’s used to “getting people around a table and solving problems and getting things done.”

Likewise Dandekar said she worked with Republicans while in the Iowa House and Senate.

“If we want to do what is best” for the district, state and nation, she said, “then we have to work together,” she said.

As a minority party member Kajtazovic said she’s been able to help get legislation passed, such as a solar energy bill, but added that there are some issues on which she won’t compromise.

O’Brien has spent his career “working on behalf of the little guy against big corporate interests” represented by defense lawyers who take the opposite point of view, he said.

“That’s OK because we follow the same set of rules, we analyze a particular case based on the facts, make reasoned and logical arguments to resolve those issues,” O’Brien said. “We need to bring that model to Washington.”

No one showed Braley, who is running to succeed Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, any love in a Cedar Rapids forum sponsored by several GOP groups featuring five Republicans candidates for that post Thursday evening.

Matt Whitaker, Scott Schaben, Mark Jacobs, Sen. Joni Ernst and Sam Clovis tied Braley to President Obama’s unpopular Affordable Care Act.

Whitaker also scored the president for a “feckless” foreign policy and promised “freedom from Obamacare.”

Schaben billed himself as an “everyday Iowan who wants to represent everyday Iowans everyday.” He’s a good listener as opposed to some candidates who are “professional talkers,” Schaben added.

Jacobs contrasted his experience as a turn-around executive to the president’s lack of leadership skills.

Obama and “liberals like Braley … don’t want us to rely on Iowa values,” but rely on an ever-growing federal government,” Ernst said.

Clovis contrasted himself with Braley saying that rather than come from the “ruling class,” he’s a member of the “country class” and would defend Americans’ constitutional liberties.

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