Shocker: Ravi Patel Withdraws From 1st District Race

In a very surprising development for the 1st District Democratic primary, Ravi Patel has announced he is withdrawing from the race. Patel entered the campaign back in February after being seen as a rising star by some in the party who had encouraged him to run. The president of Hawkeye Hotels, Patel had already impressed many with his massive fundraising haul from the 1st quarter.

In a statement first announced from his Twitter account, Patel indicated his desire to see a united Democratic Party in the effort to unseat Republican Rod Blum.

“For me, running for Congress was a great chance to tell my story, to inspire people, and to advocate for the change we need,” Patel’s statement read. “But it has become clear that doing so would ensure a tough battle for the Democratic primary nomination. That battle would have diverted energy and resources that should be directed at changing the course of our nation. Such a battle would not be good for the district, for the Party, or for the nominee.”

Starting Line had heard rumors from some that Patel was beginning to realize just how large of an effort a run for Congress can be. He had an embarrassingly bad story written on him last week in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald in which Patel didn’t have much of an answer on some basic issues Congress would face, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and dealing with ISIS.

Still, all indications seemed that Patel was continuing his fundraising advantage, and was likely to even have a Super PAC formed to support him. Patel also would have provided an intriguing candidacy as a young businessman and entrepreneur with an Indian heritage. So to drop out so soon after announcing what likely would have been a promising campaign, and considering he was still holding public events just last week, is a surprise to say the least.

The developing primary between him and Monica Vernon, Gary Kroeger and possibly Swati Dandekar promised to be one of the most interesting in the nation. However, some Democrats in Iowa have started to wonder if it’d be a little too interesting – would the considerable amount of money likely to be raised and spent be used to tear each of the candidates down? Rod Blum is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country, but a bruising primary could damage Democrats ability to take it back. Today’s developments probably won’t be welcome news to Blum or the NRCC.

Starting Line will have more here as we hear about it.

Update 1: Gary Kroeger posted this message on Facebook:

“Thank you, Ravi Patel, for your work and commitment to Iowa. While the announcement of your departure from the race this afternoon surprised us all, I am confident that you will have an incredible impact on our state. I am personally grateful that throughout this primary process, we’ve been able to connect on our shared vision for a progressive state with thriving opportunities for all Iowans.

I am grateful for your friendship and I look forward to working with you in the future to ensure that Iowa remains the land of opportunity.”

Update 2: My early speculation on this: a Patel victory was always going to be difficult – the one thing that made it possible was that he’d have massive amounts of money available to him. But he was going to start out with virtually no name ID in the district (he essentially moved in from Iowa City), and would be up against a very well-known opponent in Monica Vernon. To make up ground would have required a very negative campaign to pull down Vernon’s numbers and support (not saying that’s what he wanted to do, but that’s just the reality of the situation). And there’s no guarantee that would be enough in the end anyway.

He also faced a big problem with the unions in Iowa’s most labor-heavy Congressional district. Many of them were upset with the contractors he used in some Hawkeye Hotel constructions. So add that to the other disadvantages he’d have to confront, and you can see how taxing this campaign could be – not an easy task for a first-time candidate.

I haven’t heard if any polling was going on in the 1st District. But if it had, you have to imagine he started out with very low numbers. At some point Patel probably had to sit down, look at the hurdles he’d have to overcome, realize that doing so would require a very expensive and negative race against fellow Democrats, and perhaps he figured it wasn’t worth it. Of course, countless candidates in Iowa and around the country have continued on with difficult or even hopeless candidacies without batting an eye. So it’s interesting to see Patel withdraw so early on in this contest. (And while I’m pointing out the difficulties he’d have, it’s still entirely possible he could have won – we haven’t had a 29-year-old entrepreneur with nearly unlimited money before – who knows what could have happened?)

If Patel’s decision to withdrawal was as he stated, for party unity (and I actually do think that was the case, or at least a very large part of it), than kudos to him. It may be one of the very few times we’ll see a promising candidate step back for the good of the party. Because Democrats really, really need to beat Rod Blum.

Update 3: Monica Vernon (who was in a City Council meeting tonight) released this statement:

“Ravi called me this afternoon to let me know he was withdrawing his candidacy. He has been a formidable opponent in this race and I strongly applaud him on a well run campaign. Ravi’s leadership from the private sector and his encouragement to get more people involved on a grassroots level will make our party stronger going into 2016. I look forward to us all working together to win this seat back for hardworking Iowa families.”

Update 4: My final thoughts (probably):

The cynic in me (which is pretty big), might react to this news with: Well, Ravi, you were a young, rich kid in over his head in a race you probably shouldn’t have gotten talked in to.

On the other hand… young candidates often get scrutinized as being immature and not having enough experience to make important decisions. 29-year-old Ravi Patel just looked at his race, saw he probably had a less than 50/50 shot at winning in a district that would have required a very negative campaign that could have damaged Democrats’ chances in winning the 1st District. Instead of forging ahead, he decided to do what’s right for the party. That’s a much more mature decision than a lot of candidates I know with decades of “experience” would ever make. Good for him.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 6/23/15

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