There’s still four months to go in the Democratic primary for the 1st District, but party leaders seem to see Monica Vernon beginning to pull away in the race. Late last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Vernon to their targeted Red To Blue candidate program, a list of their top prospects in the country to retake Republican districts.
Vernon’s inclusion on the list should indicate to donors and activists in Iowa and nationally that Democratic House leaders have settled on which person they prefer to take on Rod Blum in the general election. Considering Democrats view Iowa’s 1st District as one of the top pick-ups in the country, that ought to help money and partner organization support flow in for Vernon.
The list of Red to Blue candidates numbers 16, while they list five other districts as Red to Blue “districts,” where the DCCC sees multiple Democratic candidates in a primary they like. Vernon’s inclusion on the former indicates they’d like to see her win the primary.
She’s already won the fundraising race this year and last, bringing in just under a million dollars, including over $200,000 in the 4th quarter. Vernon’s bank account ended 2015 with about $608,000 in it, while Pat Murphy had $86,495 on hand, and Gary Kroeger had $8,391.
Most Democratic insiders in the state tell Starting Line they expect Vernon to emerge the winner in the 1st District, but many still caution that Murphy retains strong support among labor members and the older activists and voters, thanks to his decades of work on Democratic priorities.
Turnout will likely play a large role in who has the advantage. A higher one driven by a strong Vernon field effort in Linn County should benefit her, while a lower one could favor Murphy, if only the most committed of Democrats come out, who have known him the longest. With it looking doubtful that the Democrats’ U.S. Senate primary to take on Chuck Grassley will spend much money to excite voters, there’s not much else on the ballot to drive turnout.
However, Vernon will likely get a geographic advantage this time around. Without the presence of other Linn County candidates, like Swati Dandekar and Dave O’Brien in 2014, the largest voter base in the district should be much better united around Vernon, their hometown candidate. The DCCC highlighted that connection in their statement on her addition to the Red to Blue list.
“Monica Vernon built a successful small business while raising three daughters, showed steadfast leadership as a Cedar Rapids city councilwoman in the wake of devastating flooding, and has a strong progressive record of delivering affordable housing and a homeless shelter for women and children,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan. “It’s inspiring to see how many Northeastern Iowans are already working hard to elect Monica because of her commitment to hardworking families and keeping Americans safe.”
by Pat Rynard