Dandekar steps down from Iowa Utilities Board to explore run for Congress

Former Marion state legislator exploring possible bid for seat being vacated by Braley

Former state legislator Swati Dandekar has resigned from the Iowa Utilities Board to give herself more time to explore an open-seat race for the U.S. House in Iowa’s 1st District.

Her resignation, effective July 22, “is a sign I need more time to explore the race,” said Dandekar, who formed an exploratory committee in May to allow her to raise funds without formally declaring her candidacy.

However, the Marion Democrat said Tuesday, being on the IUB, a fulltime job, kept her in Des Moines and away from the 1st District. That did not leave her enough time to meet with Democrats in the 20-county northeast Iowa district and do the legwork necessary to make a decision.

“Swati was finding that she wasn’t able to get out in the district the way she wanted to,” said Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who has been advising Dandekar. “This frees her up to do that.”

Based on telephone conversations with 1st District Democrats, Dandekar said, people are very excited that I might run, “but they want to see me personally.”

She hasn’t reached a final decision. Judge expects Dandekar to make her decision yet this summer on whether to seek to succeed Waterloo Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being given up by Sen. Tom Harkin.

The open-seat 1st District race already is drawing a crowd and will grow by one more July 10 when Cedar Rapids attorney and Democratic activist Dave O’Brien announces his candidacy. He has a news conference scheduled at 9:15 a.m. at Greene Square Park in Cedar Rapids and others in Dubuque and Waterloo.

Rep. Pat Murphy, the former speaker of the Iowa House, was the first to jump into the race. Since then, he’s been joined by Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon and Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo.

The Republican field, so far, consists of businessmen Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is expected to join the race later this summer.

Dandekar served in the Iowa House from 2002 to 2008 when she was elected to the Senate. She resigned to accept Branstad’s appointment to the IUB in 2011. Before that, she served on the Linn-Mar school board.

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