As the 2014 Iowa legislature begins later today, some of its members are focused on winning higher office.
Three members of the Iowa House are actively running for congress. One state senator is running for governor, another is running for the U.S. Senate and two other senators may run for congress.
Most of the rest of the senators and representatives are plotting their bids for reelection, although a couple are weighing bids for attorney general and secretary of state. In addition, the governor — who either signs or vetoes the bills legislators pass — is seeking reelection in 2014.
With all that going on, University of Northern Iowa political science professor Christopher Larimer says it’s no wonder legislative leaders and Governor Branstad are promising a limited agenda with little controversy.
“The easy explanation is it’s all about politics and election year politics,” Latimer says. “I think it’s just maybe a very careful agenda going into an election year.”
Being that careful is wise, according to Larimer.
“Some of the research, at least at the gubernatorial level, is that you need to be careful as a governor about over-reaching,” Larimer says. “The best governors are generally ones that have a few bullets points on their agenda, they’re very clear about what those bullet points are and they focus on those few points. The governors who seem to get in trouble are the ones who sort of over-promise and over-reach and I think that applies to the legislature as well — particularly in an election year when you have so many running for higher office.”
Larimer says legislators running for higher office should expect a higher level of scrutiny compared to their colleagues.
“That reduces the likelihood that much more that someone’s going to try to be overly ambitious with anything that can be considered sort of controversial or raise some eyebrows in any way,” he says.
The list of legislators hoping voters send them up the political food chain in 2014? State Senator Joni Ernst of Red Oak is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. State Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, is running for governor. Two other state senators — Republican Brad Zaun of Urbandale and Matt McCoy of Des Moines — are both considering a run in Iowa’s third congressional district.
Three members in the Iowa House are running in the first congressional district. State Representative Pat Murphy of Dubuque was the first to declare his candidacy for Iowa’s first district congressional seat and he now faces State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo along with three other candidates in a Democratic Primary in the district. State Representative Walt Rogers of Waterloo is running for the Republican Party’s nomination in the first congressional district.