DES MOINES, Iowa – Let the jockeying for political position begin.
Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy announced Wednesday that he is a candidate for Congress in Iowa's 1st District in the 2014 election, 21 months away and only three weeks into the current legislative session in Des Moines.
The Dubuque Democrat said he will seek the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, who has announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate. Braley made that switch when Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Cumming, said he plans to retire in 2014 and not seek re-election to another six-year term.
"I feel excited about my opportunity to run for Congress," Murphy said in an interview.
Murphy, 53, said he has knocked on doors in all 20 counties in the 1st District as a leader and candidate recruiter in the Iowa House the past 24 years. He said he has done a lot of team-building work and fundraising in the northeastern quadrant of the state that will help him in his 2014 campaign.
The redrawn 1st district truly covers northeast Iowa, stretching from Marshalltown to Dubuque, including the Cedar Rapids and Waterloo-Cedar Falls metro areas. Braley captured 57% of the vote in winning his fourth term back in November.
Murphy said he expects a crowded field in the primary race for his party's 1st District nomination but, having grown up in a family with nine children, he said he's comfortable with that kind of dynamic.
Murphy said he considered running in 2006, but he and his wife, Teri, decided the time wasn't right. His four children are grown now. He said he chose to step down from leadership in the Iowa House to position himself for an opportunity to run for Congress should it arise.
As a member of Congress, Murphy said he would like to keep the focus on growing the U.S. economy and jobs, improving education and promoting renewable energy sources like soy diesel and wind energy. He also would champion middle-class Americans in the tradition of Harkin and Braley.
"There seems to be a huge attack on the middle class, especially with seniors in the areas of Social Security and Medicare," he said of the current GOP-run U.S. House. "They're not focused on the economy, which is a huge issue in this country right now. They're focused too much on partisan bickering."
Murphy said he thought the legislative accomplishments while he was speaker – raising the state's minimum wage, creating a quality early children program for 4-year-olds, holding the line on college tuition increases, funding higher education and job training programs at Iowa's community colleges, providing small business health care reform, passing a local option sales tax for K-12 schools, and expanding civil rights for Iowans will help him in his run for Congress.
"I think we did a ton of wonderful things," he said. "I feel like I've done a very good job here."
Murphy is a 1977 Dubuque Wahlert High School. He majored in speech and minored in history and political science at Loras College. He has owned his own business and worked in various capacities at Mercy Health Center, CyCare Systems Inc., Hillcrest Family Services and Northeast Iowa Community College.
Now down to only four congressional districts, Iowans now have split representation. All four incumbents, two Democrats and two Republicans, won with comfortable margins three months ago.
The 1st district is a rare open seat and the U.S. Senate could lead to a second open seat, should Republicans Tom Latham (3rd district) or Steve King (4th district) try to run.
"Open seats attract a lot of attention and a lot of money, "said UI political science professor Cary Covington. "With 2014 being an off-year, national politics will take a back seat. It will be very 'Iowa-centric', what can the candidates say about what they're going to do for Iowa."
The Gazette's Rod Boshart contributed to this report.