Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Patel Out in 1st CD

The last time I talked to Ravi Patel, a couple months ago, he was very confident about his bid for Congress in the 1st CD. Fundraising was strong, meetings and events around the district were going well.

So I'm as surprised as anyone by his announcement this afternoon that he's leaving the race. It takes guts to step up and put yourself forward as a candidate. And it also takes guts to very publicly step back after you've stepped up.

Sure, there had been some bumps in the road: some faux outrage about the quality and content of a film Ravi had produced, some labor questions about wages at his hotels, and a poor interview last week. But none of these things were fatal, especially at so early a stage with so few voters tuned in.

I haven't written much about the 1st District race. OK, I've been actively avoiding it because I like all three, now two, of the candidates. I haven't met Gary Kroeger yet but I like his message.

Monica Vernon did great service for the party last year as Jack Hatch's running mate. She's been bashed as a new convert to the Democrats - I admit, I bashed too when I was supporting Anesa Kajtazovic in last year's primary - but she reaches out to detractors, and so she's a new Democrat? At least she's moving in the right direction.

But Ravi and I have been on the same side of a number of fights the last few years. And I like young candidates. I'm old enough now that the idea of bringing along a new generation of leaders is very appealing.

But not all Democrats agree, especially not in my county, which may have been part of why Ravi felt the need to move into the very inviting 1st CD.  So Ravi and Anesa were young people in a hurry. Since when was ambition a crime?

Republicans have known this for years. 25 years ago my brother went to Boys State in Wisconsin. He met a very ambitious young fellow there, who was in such a hurry that he basically became a professional Young Republican before he left college. He either dropped out or was kicked out, but he already had a legislative seat lined up.

You may have heard of him. Dude's name is Walker. The investments in young Republicans that were made two, three decades ago have now paid off with the likely presidential nominee.
But back to 2016 and back to the 1st Congressional District of Iowa. I'm just speculating here:

As I keep saying, Iowa Democrats are furious that after decades of effort and near misses, and years of comparisons with Mississippi - NOT a good thing during Flag Week - Republicans sent a woman to Washington first. And not just a woman - a woman with Joni Ernst's very special cultural persona.

Survey the 2016 landscape. Chuck Grassley is untouchable, Steve King's district is unwinnable and Dave Loebsack is the only Democratic incumbent. In the 3rd CD, Staci Appel is out and Janet Peterson looks like she's waiting till 2018 when the options are better and when she is in mid-term in her Senate seat. The other Democratic female all-star, Liz Mathis, is also mid-term in 2018, and is a Vernon supporter and ally anyway. And Swati Dandekar, who may yet rise from the dead with Patel out, is still persona non grata to the base. (Unlike Vernon, she switched the WRONG way.)

So if Democratic women have a chance in Iowa in 2016, it's Monica and Hillary.

Even before Ravi Patel announced - scratch that. Even before Pat Murphy lost, which they saw coming, DC Democrats were making it very clear that Monica Vernon was their choice in this district. In fact that was probably part of the plan when she ran for lieutenant governor. And to her credit, Vernon came away from losing two elections in the same year with increased stature, which is a pretty tough career move to pull off.

And I'm speculating that message may have been sent and received.

Patel's dropout sets up a 1st CD primary between Vernon and Kroeger that's got a weird parallel to the Democratic presidential race. In this corner, a second time candidate who may be a little moderate for the base but is adjusting fast, can raise good money, and oh yeah First Woman. In that corner, an outsider with a little bit different background who's betting on a feisty progressive message.

As for Ravi Patel. It's not every day that a young, charismatic, and wealthy businessman walks in the front door of the Democratic party. So his first run for office didn't go as well as he had hoped. So what. We need to not eat our young here, like we more or less did with Kajtazovic. We need to nurture and bring him along as a future leader, the way we are with Jim Mowrer.

Ravi Patel is an asset to the Democratic Party, and to the whole state of Iowa. One campaign that didn't work out does not change the fact that he is a remarkable success at a young age. Ravi has a bright future ahead in the Democratic Party if he chooses that, and is a name I hope to be still hearing long after I hang up the beret.


Gark said...

John, it was his second run. As you likely remember, he also ran and lost as a Iowa City council candidate.

John said...

No, that was his brother Raj Patel.

Gary Kroeger said...

I would certainly love to rectify the fact that we haven't met. Let me know how to contact you.

Gary Kroeger