Congressional democrats across the country are scurrying for political cover as millions of Americans are losing their health insurance, despite democrat assurances they could keep it. Their broken promise, combined with the failures of the Obamacare website, have sunk President Obama’s polling numbers to new lows and has democrats revolting. However, the topic was barely broached during a forum of Iowa democrats competing for a congressional seat.
The five democrats running for their party’s nomination in Iowa’s First Congressional District race shared their views during a forum in Williamsburg on Thursday. Pat Murphy, Dave O’Brien, Anesa Kajtazovich, Swati Dandekar and Monica Vernon are contending for the seat currently held by democrat Bruce Braley.
Despite a national backlash against the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, the topic was almost completely ignored during the forum. The one exception was former Iowa Speaker of the House Pat Murphy.
“We need the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said in his opening comments. “If I’m elected to Congress, I will defend the Affordable Care Act. I will not repeal it and I will make sure, if we change the Affordable Care Act, it’s only to increase access to healthcare for our citizens.”
Murphy also took thinly veiled shots at opponents Swati Dandekar and Monica Vernon. Three times during his five-minute opening statement, Murphy said he is a “democrat you can trust”. The implication is that liberals cannot rely on Dandekar and Vernon.
Swati Dandekar angered some democrats because she risked her party’s one seat majority in the Iowa Senate by resigning in the middle of her term to accept an appointment from Governor Branstad to the Iowa Utilities Board.
Monica Vernon, a Cedar Rapids city council member, is a former Republican. She changed her party affiliation to democrat in May 2009. Vernon played loose with the facts of her own biography during the forum. Despite her previous registration status, Vernon claimed she is “a lifelong progressive”.
Anesa Kajtazovich also took a thinly veiled shot at Dandekar and Vernon by reminding the crowd that she is “a real progressive” and would be the best person to “carry on the legacy of Bruce Braley”.
Kajtazovich, by the far youngest candidate in the field, is an Iowa House representative from Waterloo. She repeatedly talked about working to stop climate change. This stance is interesting because when she began campaigning, Kajtazovich had no opinion on the Keystone XL pipeline because she didn’t know enough about it. The Keystone XL issue has been in the news for years and its construction is strongly opposed by the environmental lobby.
Kajtazovich, as she has done before, also slammed the Tea Party and conservative Republicans, and even claimed Republicans in the Iowa Legislature wanted to eliminate preschool. Not funding for universal preschool. The congressional candidate claimed Republicans proposed to eliminate preschool.
“The first bill that the Republicans introduced in the legislature would have just taken away so many opportunities for people. They even proposed to eliminate preschool. I mean, even preschool. They went after four-year olds. They went after seniors,” Kajtazovic claimed.
Kajtazovic also railed against “ Tea Party extremists like Ted Cruz and Steve King”.
Monica Vernon took her criticism of the Tea Party a step further. She immediately addressed the movement in her opening statement and said the Tea Party was the reason she’s running.
“With the Tea Party fringe holding Congress hostage and with the Tea Party Republicans shutting down our government and bringing us to the brink of financial ruin, something’s got to be done. We’ve got to take a different tack. I’m Monica Vernon and that’s why I’m running for Congress,” the former Republican said.
Murphy and Dave O’Brien, a Cedar Rapids attorney, seemed the most comfortable when addressing the audience. O’Brien opted not to stand behind the podium or use a microphone. He is a longtime democrat campaign operative and boasted of his close friendship with Vice-President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. O’Brien ran Clinton’s Iowa campaign in 1992.
Swati Dandekar’s comments were focused heavily on jobs, the economy and education. Not surprisingly, she was the only one of the candidates that did not espouse consistently liberal views. While the others talked about their “progressive agenda”, Dandekar discussed kitchen table issues and her experience working with democrats and Republicans.
There were 35 attendees at the forum, plus campaign aides and print media members. The event was organized by the Iowa County Democrats. The three Republicans vying for the First Congressional District nomination are Dubuque businessman Rod Blum, Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje and Iowa House Representative Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls. They have not held a forum in that race yet.
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