Dandekar Forming Committee to Explore Iowa U.S. House 1st District Campaign

By James Lynch, Reporter

Democrat Liz Mathis hugs former Iowa State Senator Swati Dandekar as she celebrates her victory in the Iowa Senate District 18 race Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 at the Campbell-Steele Gallery in Marion, Iowa. Mathis' victory over Republican Cindy Golding, to claim the seat vacated by Dandekar who is now a member of the Iowa Utilities Board, maintains democratic control of the Iowa Senate. (Brian Ray/ SourceMedia Group News)


By Ellen Kurt

DES MOINES, Iowa – After deflecting questions about her plans for months, former state Sen. Swati Dandekar is taking the first steps toward running for an open U.S. House seat in northeast Iowa.

The Marion Democrat confirmed today supporters are forming an exploratory committee and she will decide before fall whether she will run for the 1st District seat now held by Waterloo Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley.

“I know it is important to the people living in northeast Iowa to continue the strong representation established by Braley,” she said. “We must keep this seat in Democratic hands.”

Dandekar, 62, stepped away from elected office in 2011 after serving in the Iowa House from 2002 to 2008 when she was elected to the Senate. Before that, she served on the Linn-Mar school board.

She ran as a moderate, pro-business Democrat who pursued economic development policies to expand job creation opportunities and bring advanced technology and skilled jobs to the state.

In her announcement, Dandekar said she recognizes the importance of agriculture, advanced manufacturing, technology and renewable energy to the district. Future opportunities in northeast Iowa will stem from expanding these sectors, she said.

“I am humbled by the number of people who have reached out to me, urging me to run and citing my ability to put good public policy before politics,” Dandekar said.

If she formally enters the race, Dandekar will face former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque. Murphy insists he’s not concerned with who else might run for the Democratic nomination.

“Worry is a wasted emotion,” he said. Murphy has been concentrating on building his campaign on the long-time relationships he has built across the 20-county district over years of candidate recruitment and fund-raising for those candidates and the party.

Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, Iowa Democratic Party chairman and a potential candidate himself, expects at least three to four candidates in a June 2014 primary.

Dandekar may have some fence-mending to do with Democrats. Many were angry with her decision in 2011 to resign from her swing-district seat in Linn County to accept Gov. Terry Branstad’s nomination to the Utilities Board. Although Democrats retained the seat, ill will remains with her decision that many Democrats saw as jeopardizing the party’s 26-24 Senate majority.

So she will spend the next several weeks “talking to voters in the 1st District, my friends, and of course my family,” said Dandekar, a naturalized American born in India. She and her husband, Arvind, have lived in Iowa since 1973.

“Together we will make a careful and thorough assessment of the race,” she said. “I will make a final decision sometime this summer.”

For more, visit http://swatidandekarforiowa.com, where an online petition urges Dandekar to run.

Her exploratory committee is chaired by Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, and Tina Patterson of Marion, with Marion attorney Dennis Naughton as treasurer.

The Republican field, so far, consists of businessmen Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque.

The 20-county 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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