Dan Dolan wants to take the skills that made him a successful homebuilder and developer and put them to work in Congress. Later today, Dolan will announce that he is seeking the Republican nomination in the newly reconfigured 2nd Congressional District. If he wins the nomination, he would face Congressman Dave Loebsack next fall.
Dolan’s career path is fascinating, and it seems to fit perfectly in today’s political climate. He spent the early days of his career doing oil exploration. He started in the Rocky Mountain West and spent time on the East and Gulf Coasts, and also spent time in India, Brazil, and Egypt working on offshore oil ships. Tired of ship life, Dolan began an electrician apprenticeship. He admitted it was clear that being an electrician wasn’t for him.
During that time, he and his wife, who he’s been married to for 26 years, began accumulating houses during the 1980’s housing crisis. “It seemed like every other house in Davenport was for sale,” Dolan said. “We bought older houses, fixed them up, and rented them out. Eventually we sold them.”
After several years, the Dolans had accumulated 15 rental properties. Then he tried his hand at new construction, and it went really well. Dolan built his first subdivision after the price of a lot in Davenport jumped from $30,000 to $55,000 overnight. He has now built six subdivisions in Clinton, Scott, and Muscatine counties.
Dolan stated that while 2009 was one of the worst years for new home construction, it was his best year in business. Dolan admits that he doesn’t have a crystal ball, but instead just relied on his common sense. “While every other builder in America was building bigger and bigger houses in 2007 and 2008, I focused on smaller, energy efficient, assessable, service-provided homes for people at or near retirement,” Dolan said.
Dolan recalled a class at a homebuilder’s conference he attended in 1999 that focused on the needs of the baby boomers that would be at retirement age in 2011. The class focused on assisted living facilities, but while the income projections were outstanding, Dolan was troubled by the cost to the consumers.
“The average cost for a couple in assisted living is around $72,000 a year. The average couple crosses the finish line with a net worth of a $150,000 to $200,000. In just 27 months, that couple become a ward of the state because they can no longer afford to pay for their assisted living facility.” As an alternative, Dolan coupled retirement living with the benefit of home ownership.
Dolan believes that the traits that allowed him to be successful in business would help him be an effective member of Congress. “The things that led me to success in business were hard work, persistence, perseverance, risk, leadership, vision, and then add more hard work. We need more people with those traits in Congress,”
When asked what issue he is most passionate about, Dolan didn’t flinch – he said jobs. He was quick to point out that he is the only candidate in the race who has actually created jobs. “I feel that among the candidates, I’m uniquely qualified. I create jobs. I see what’s happening. I don’t have a crystal ball, but its really just common sense. I want to bring some common sense solutions to Congress,” Dolan said.
Dolan feels like he has experienced the American Dream, but now wants to go to Congress to ensure that the next generation has the same opportunities that he did. “I lift my head up, I don’t like what I see right now,” Dolan said. “I can’t believe what I see right now. I feel like this all happened on my watch, I was alive when all of these things happened, and so I feel a responsibility for it, and so I feel compelled to go serve,” he added.
The newly reconfigured 2nd District, which now includes Scott and Clinton counties among others, could prove to be difficult for Congressman Dave Loebsack. For years, Scott County was used to having a congressman who made his home there in Jim Leach. When Leach moved in 2002 due to redistricting, Congressman Jim Nussle made building relationships in Scott County a priority, and it paid off.
In the last election, Congressman Bruce Braley lost the county to newcomer Ben Lange. Thus far, two of the three Republican candidates have strong connections to Scott County. Dolan operates four subdivisions in Scott Count and headquarters his business there, and also does business in Clinton and Muscatine Counties. Dolan said that over the past decade, he has spent the better part of a million dollars marketing Dan Dolan homes, which could be a factor in the primary and general election.
Dolan thinks he’s a good fit for the district because he has strong connections to the four most populous counties in the district, but he can also relate to rural voters. Dolan lives south of Muscatine. He’s a lifetime member of the NRA and enjoys hunting and fishing with his kids. He also admits that he’s a hobby farmer. Dolan has the largest plantation of chestnut trees in Iowa. His two youngest boys harvest the nuts and sell them at farmers markets.
“I’m just a business guy who wants to get stuff done,” Dolan admitted. “I make payroll on Friday. I have the vision to put projects together. We initiate, we complete, we borrow vast amounts of money, and we pay it back. I think those are qualities we need in Congress.”
Before he can take on Loebsack, he will first have to win the Republican nomination. Two other Republican candidates are seeking the nomination, including Jon Archer, a corporate attorney for John Deere who has already been busy traveling the district. The other is Richard Gates, a tea party activist. Dolan doesn’t see the other Republican candidates as the opposition. “There sparring partners. We will make each other better candidates,” Dolan said.
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