Iowa 1st District Democrat Dandekar runs as ‘testament to American Dream'

Dandekar recently resigned from the Iowa Utilities Board

Swati Dandekar
Swati Dandekar

CEDAR RAPIDS – For Democrat Swati Dandekar, her Iowa First District campaign is about jobs and the economy, education and the American Dream.

Dandekar, a former state lawmaker and recently resigned from the Iowa Utilities Board, said Iowans she talked to while making up her mind to enter the race to succeed Waterloo Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley were excited and encouraged by her focus on jobs and education.

“They liked what I was saying about jobs that pay living wages so families can thrive -- not just survive, but thrive,” Dandekar said July 23 after formally entering what is now a five-way primary for the Democratic nomination in the 20-county northeast Iowa congressional district.

Education, added Dandekar, who served on the Linn-Mar school board before being elected to the Iowa House, is the key to jobs and preparing students to compete for the high-tech jobs of the 21st Century. She sees great potential, especially for Iowa, in the “cutting edge energy sector.”

Those jobs as well as providing the education needed to attract and create them comes together for Dandekar in the American Dream.

“When we came, education was all we had,” Dandekar said about herself and her husband, Arvind, who became naturalized American citizens after arriving in Iowa from their native India in 1973. She has degrees in chemistry, biology and dietetics. He owns an engineering development and solutions company catering to the avionics industry.

“I think the American Dream is still alive,” she said.

Voters are inspired by that, she said, and their support makes her “confident that I can win the Democratic nomination next June and the election in November of 2014.”

Dandekar, 62, was first elected to the Iowa House in 2002 as a moderate, pro-business Democrat who pursued economic development policies to expand job creation opportunities and bring advanced technology and skilled jobs to the state. After three terms, she was elected to the Senate, but resigned in 2011 to accept Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointment to the IUB.

She also was motivated by a strong belief it’s important for Democrats to maintain the 1st District seat.

“I have a strong a record of putting good public policy above politics,” she said. Dandekar promised “work tirelessly … just as I have in each public position I have held in the past.”

The election is about the future, she said.

“I truly understand the promise that the United States offers and I want to make sure that every Iowan is given the same opportunity that I had,” Dandekar said. “I am a living testament that the American dream is alive.”

In addition to Dandekar, the Democratic field includes business owner and City Councilwoman Monica Vernon and attorney Dave O’Brien, both of Cedar Rapids, Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo and Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque.

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

The 20-county district stretches from Marshalltown north to Minnesota and east to the Mississippi River. It includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque.For more, visit

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