CEDAR RAPIDS | The field of candidates vying for the Republican nomination in Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District doubled overnight.
A day after Rep. Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls announced the formation of an exploratory committee, former Iowa Secretary of State and two-term Cedar Rapids Mayor Paul Pate confirmed he will enter the race this month.
Rogers, a two-term state representative best known for his efforts to curb the use of traffic enforcement cameras and being the Republican point person for managing the legislation that eventually became the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan insurance program, said Thursday night that he’s considering a bid for the congressional seat now held by Rep. Bruce Braley.
A Waterloo Democrat, Braley is running for the U.S. Senate.
Pate, 55, owner of Pate Asphalt Systems, frequently has been mentioned as a candidate for state and federal office since leaving the mayor’s office eight years ago. In each case, he declined to run, citing family and business obligations.
However, friends and political allies encouraged – “pressured,” according to Pate – him into getting into the 1st District race despite the fact two candidates already were running.
“Bottom line,” he said Friday afternoon, “I’m a little frustrated in the lack of energy and momentum in the existing field. There’s not the excitement we should be having in an open-seat race.”
Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque have been seeking the GOP nomination essentially since the 2012 race. Both have run before, but neither has been the party’s nominee.
Rogers, 51, said the exploratory committee is the first step to launching a campaign. It creates a legal shell for a candidate who expects to spend more than $5,000 on polling, travel, telephone calls and other such activities to determine if there is support for a full-fledged run.
“Right now we’re going to see what our fundraising ability is and go from there,” Rogers told Delaware County Republicans.
A pro-life conservative, Rogers has a reputation for being able to work with both the party’s evangelical wing and its more secular members.
“I haven’t asked for endorsements of my (House) colleagues, but I spoke to each of them in the district and they encouraged me to run,” Rogers said.
Five candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination: Reps. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo and Pat Murphy of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien, Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon and former legislator and Iowa Utilities Board member Swati Dandekar.
The district, which covers much of the northeast part of the state, leans Democratic, although registered independents make up the largest number of active voters. According the Iowa Secretary of State data released on Sept. 1, there are 193,388 registered independents in the district compared to 162,354 registered Democrats and 136,284 registered Republicans.