The launch got a head start Sunday morning with a half hour KWWL interview. With some obligatory "When?/Soon" out of the way, longtime anchor Ron Steele got Kajtazovic to open up more than usual about her personal history:
(The photo above is from the day the Kajtazovic family, including a then 10 year old Anesa, left a Bosnian refugee camp for Waterloo.) The interview also focused on health care and immigration reform.
This marks five Democratic candidates now Officially® in for the open 1st District, prompting speculation that no one will hit the required 35% in a primary and the nomination will be settled at a convention.
I'm not as convinced of that. Three of the five share the same geographic base in Linn County. After her Senate control risking resignation in 2011, Swati Dandekar is toxic to the Democratic base, and she has to compete for the "moderate" support she claims as a strength with compelling Republican contests: the GOP's one congressional primary and the Senate race. And her immigrant/American Dream story is neutralized, or more likely trumped, by Kajtazovic's more compelling version of the story.
Unlike Dandekar, who took a high dollar job from Terry Branstad when she resigned her seat, Monica Vernon is at least moving in the right direction. But her relatively recent (2009) switch from the GOP to the Democrats still has activists wondering. And Attorney Dave O'Brien offers little compelling reason for his run.
Between them, the three Linn candidates splinter their geographic base. That leaves the lone candidate from Dubuque - Pat Murphy - and Kajtazovic, the only Black Hawk contender.
Last time the seat was open in 2006, Bruce Braley won the Democratic primary with just 36% in a field with three serious contenders and one Some Dude. It was largely a "friends and neighbors" contest, where candidates rolled up big margins on their home turf. Rick Dickinson won 61% in Dubuque and an amazing 80% in Jackson, while Braley scored 68% in Black Hawk.
Scott County, no longer in the district, was largely neutralized. Davenport's Bill Gluba won, but Braley held his own while Dickinson was wiped out. Linn County plays that role this time.
The gender factor is in play here. Iowa Democrats are desperate to break out of the never elected a woman status we share with only Mississippi, and they don't want the Republicans to do it first with Joni Ernst in the Senate race. Democratic women serious about this are worried about the three women splitting the vote. My suggestion: look to the geography and look to the woman who doesn't have to share a large home county.
So I see someone coming out of this primary with more than the 35%, and I say this race comes down to Murphy and Kajtazovic. And you know where I am on that.
UPDATE: While I missed the events (a full day of Human Being stuff for me) I caught up with Kajtazavic by phone on the road from Cedar Rapids to Dubuque for the fourth press event. (There's a fifth stop tonight, at Jackson County's central committee meeting; one of the 1st CDs medium size counties.)She said attendance from the public, including voters from neighboring counties, was good at the first three events.
"I bring a perfect mix of experience and a fresh outlook," she said in distinguishing herself from the rest of the crowded field. That crowd has led to a lot of speculation about a nominating convention, but Kajtazovic sees a path to an outright primary win with both first place and the required 35%.
"I'm from the second largest county, and we have tremendous support there, overwhelming support," she said. "This campaign will be grassroots, one voter at a time." She said she's also heard positive feedback on her "Steele Report" comments on campaign finance reform.
Full statement from Kajtazovic campaign:
State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic (D-61) announced today that she will be running for the open 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Bruce Braley. She is currently serving her second term in the Iowa House representing part of Waterloo, Gilbertville, Washburn, parts of Jesup and La Porte City in Black Hawk County.
In 2010, Rep. Kajtazovic became the youngest woman elected to the Iowa legislature at the age of 24. She said she knocked on over 7,000 doors and made over 2,000 phone calls to receive 59% of the vote over longtime Waterloo mayor, John Rooff. In the legislature, she currently serves on Appropriations, Commerce, State Government, Veteran Affairs and Economic Development Budget-Sub committees. She previously served on Ways and Means and Local Government. She's part of American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and NewDeal Leaders.
She's been part of bi-partisan international delegations to China and Taiwan. Last year, she was named one of Courier's 20 under 40 award recipients and one of three legislators awarded to be part of the Council of State Governments BILLD program. During her time in the legislature, Rep. Kajtazovic championed for education, access to quality and affordable health care for all Iowans, renewable energy, preserving our natural resources, growing jobs in Iowa, and campaign finance reform laws.
“I am running for Congress in Iowa’s 1st district because I believe that government should make people’s lives better. Washington needs transformational leadership and I will bring a fresh perspective to solve the gridlock and bring about meaningful reform for the middle class,” Kajtazovic said. “I live and breathe those middle class values and you can count on me to work tirelessly to ensure all Iowans get the opportunities they deserve.”
Rep. Kajtazovic, said her listening tour reinforced that Iowans are ready for a new generation of leaders to step up to solve the challenges and strengthen the declining middle class.“Through my listening tour of the 1st Congressional District, many expressed a need for a new generation of leadership. Leadership in the mold of Tom Harkin and Bruce Braley that makes economic security and a growing middle class our number one priority.”
Kajtazovic wrapped up her listening tour on August 5th in Waterloo during which she visited all 20 counties in the district. She used the tour as a chance to talk to voters to assess her potential run and to gauge their most pressing issues. “This process should be about the people and for me the people were the most important metric in deciding to run,” Kajtazovic said. “The support and encouragement from people across the district is absolutely there. I’m here today because I believe Iowans are looking for new leaders—leaders with new ideas and vision; leaders with records of success and innovation; leaders who will stand on principle yet compromise to get things done for the common good.”
“I've seen the challenges and opportunities. I'm an example of the American Dream. Only in America could a 10-year old refugee rise up, graduate from college with a double major in 3 years and then be elected to a state legislature at the age of 24.”
Kajtazovic graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a double major in Business and Public Administration. “Education has provided me with opportunities that I would have never had otherwise. I credit a great deal of my success to the exceptional education I have had through the public education system, so I understand the vital need education plays in a thriving economy in the 21st century. We must invest in education and make quality education an affordable option for our people.”
Kajtazovic and her family immigrated to Waterloo in 1997 from war-torn Bosnia. She describes their coming as a second chance at life and a shot at the American Dream, which she exemplifies. She attributes her success to her parents instilling in her that with hard work anything is possible in this country, but she is aware that attaining the American Dream is becoming increasingly difficult for middle class Americans. “We must keep the American Dream alive and we can do that by providing all Iowans and all Americans with a fair shot,” Kajtazovic said. “Working families are struggling and I will make it my priority to give them a voice.”
“At the end of the day I am a Bruce Braley Democrat and when elected I will grow on his progressive legacy. Bruce has been a great champion of Democratic values and middle class ideals and you can expect the same commitment from me.”