CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – A former youth pastor from Cedar Falls formed an exploratory committee Thursday night to run for the First Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley.
Walt Rogers, a two-term Republican state representative in the Iowa House, is best known for his efforts to curb the use of red light and traffic cameras in the state and being the Republican point person for managing the legislation that eventually became the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan insurance program.
“Right now we’re going to see what our fundraising ability is and go from there,” Rogers said during a phone conversation Thursday after a meeting of the Delaware County Republicans where he made the announcement.
An exploratory committee is the first step to launching a campaign for Congressional office. It creates a legal shell for a candidate who expects to spend more than $5,000 on polling, travel, telephone calls and other such activities to determine if there is support for a full-fledged run.
A pro-life conservative, Rogers, a native of Waterloo and a 1979 graduate of Columbus High School, has the reputation for being able to work with both the party’s evangelical wing and its more secular members. He narrowly lost an election to incumbent State Sen. Jeff Danielson prior to being elected to the Iowa House.
“I haven’t asked for endorsements of my (House) colleagues, but I spoke to each of them in the district and they encouraged me to run,” Rogers said. He is an assistant Iowa House majority leader.
If he enters the race, Rogers will face Republican businessmen Rod Blum of Dubuque and Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids in the Republican primary.
Five candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination: state representatives Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo and Pat Murphy of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien, Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon and former Iowa Utilities Board member Swati Dandekar.
The district which covers much of the northeast part of the state leans Democratic, although registered independents make up the largest number of active voters.
According the Iowa Secretary of State data released on Sept. 1, there are 193,388 registered independents in the district compared to 162,354 registered Democrats and 136,284 registered Republicans.
“Three years ago I won on smaller, smarter government and I want to do that in Washington, DC,” Rogers said. “I’m going to work had and in a year where I think Republicans will do well it makes (this district) at least 50-50.”