State Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids made a big step toward challenging Senator Chuck Grassley in 2016 today, forming an exploratory committee to look into a potential run. Hogg had been widely expected by many within the party to be considering a U.S. Senate campaign. The Senator from Cedar Rapids is one of the Legislature’s better-known members from years of advocating for action on climate change and renewable, clean energy.
“I am going to talk about the need for climate action as I talk to Iowans, but it’s not the only issue I’m going to talk about,” Hogg said in an interview with Starting Line. “I’m going to talk about getting Congress to work again so we have a vibrant, full-employment economy that works for all Americans. And I also think we need to talk about campaign reform. We have a campaign system that is broken – it costs way too much, it adds far too little value, it is turning off generations of Americans to our political systems, and we need to fix our campaigns.”
Most of all, Hogg says, he wants to see Congress work better, and feels his experience finding common ground at the Statehouse would prepare him well for that. “I think I’ve got a good record of working – without sacrificing any principles – with Republicans to get things done,” Hogg said, citing his work with the flood mitigation program, updating Iowa’s criminal transmission of HIV law and visitation rights for wards. “We need to be focused on results for the American people and not preparing for the next political campaign. Most of the people in Congress probably spend as much, if not more, time raising money and getting ready for their next campaign than they do actually working to pass legislation and get things done for the American people.”
One issue in particular that Hogg feels Congress has dropped the ball on is the wind energy production tax credit, which expired at the end of last year. “It took state policy – particularly led by Governor Vilsack – to have Iowa become a wind economy leader,” Hogg says of the need for government to invest in clean energy. “I floor-managed the bill, got results on the solar energy tax credit at the state level. That has triggered over $50 million in solar investment in Iowa, over 1,200 projects, over 900 jobs in the solar energy industry.”
Still, Hogg stresses he’s just in the exploratory phase right now. “The exploratory committee is a chance for me to assess whether people are interested in my candidacy, whether they’re supportive enough, whether I can put together a campaign team and campaign operation, and assess whether I’ll be competitive in 2016,” he said, noting he should make a final decision within three or four months, but has no set deadline.
Defeating Grassley, who has served in Iowa public office since 1959 and is in his sixth term in the Senate, will obviously be very difficult to beat in the general election. His popularity in the state has only grown over time, even despite his recent hard right shift on several issues since 2010. In recent elections he beat Roxanne Conlin in the Republican wave year of 2010 by 64% to 33%, and walloped non-serious candidate Art Small in 2004 by 70% to 28%. Despite the tough odds, Iowa Democrats still badly want a legitimate candidate on the statewide ballot and Hogg would fit many of their needs with his profile, issue base and history of results in the Legislature.
“I really do honor and respect Senator Grassley for his long service to our state and our country, but I think most Iowans know that to get Congress to work better and to reform our campaign system, it’s going to require a change in leadership,” Hogg said of the potential match-up. “I think elections are about the future.”
Two other Democrats are already seeking the U.S. Senate nomination. Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause have been extensively traveling the state to speak at Democratic events for much of this year. Both also ran in the 2010 primary for U.S. Senate against Conlin. Conlin won that race with 77.5% of the vote, while Krause received 12.9% and Fiegen 9.4%.
Hogg, 48, is serving his third term in the State Senate after two terms in the State House (for those unfamiliar, his name is pronounced like the first syllable of “hoag-ie,” and not like “hog”). He’s also an attorney with Elderkin & Pirnie, P.L.C., and is married to his wife Kate, whom he has three children with. Hogg’s website for his exploratory is here, while his Facebook page is here. Bleeding Heartland posted his full release here.
by Pat Rynard
Photo provided by Rob Hogg