WATERLOO — Democratic Iowa State Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic announced on Sunday that she is considering running for the Democratic nomination for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat.
The Waterloo representative said she is launching an exploratory committee to analyze the possibility of running for U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley’s open seat in 2014. Braley announced this year that he is running for retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat.
“I was always passionate about policy, and just what goes on in the world around,” Kajtazovic said. “I think I was influenced at a young age that it really does matter, after going through war. “
Born in war-torn Bosnia and a naturalized U.S. citizen, the 26-year-old representative has served in the Iowa House of Representatives for two terms, and serves on committees including House Commerce, Appropriations, State Government and Veteran Affairs Committees and the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
Now, Kajtazovic said she’s interested in assisting more middle and working-class families in Iowa.
“I see a lot of people expressing frustrations with Washington and a desire for new leadership,” Kajtazovic said.
To gauge what issues Northeast Iowans are concerned about, Kajtazovic is launching a “Listening Tour” in all 20 counties in the district. She said she’ll announce the dates at a later time.
“A lot of people say ‘You don’t do that with a congressional campaign,’ but I’m really a grass-roots campaigner and that’s what this listening tour will be about. It’s really about the people,” Kajtazovic said.
Two candidates -- Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon – already are running for the nomination to the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for the Senate.
Another two Democrats – former state lawmaker Swati Dandekar of Marion, now a member of the Iowa Utilities Board, and Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien – are considering the race.
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 this summer.
The 1st District stretches from Marshalltown north to Minnesota and east to the Mississippi River. It includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque.
Kajtazovic said it is up to Iowan’s to decide who they want representing their interests.
“I will give the people a chance to get to know me, and for me to get to know what’s on their mind,” Kajtazovic said.
As the youngest woman to ever serve in the Iowa House, Kajtazovic said she won’t let her age stifle her ambitions for higher office.
“This election is not about me, it’s about the people of the 1st District and who can provide effective leadership in Washington,” Kajtazovic said.
During her time in the Iowa House, Kajtazovic said she focused on issues such as education, renewable energy, business incentives and health care. As a University of Northern Iowa graduate, she said she’s also worked on legislation to assist UNI and Hawkeye Community College.
“We need to continue helping the middle class,” Kajtazovic said. “One of the big initiatives we passed was helping fill the skilled workforce gap in the state, and working with my community college here in my district and the business community --- we got that done.”
In 2010, at the age of 24, she became the youngest woman elected to the Iowa House and the only Bosnian-American elected to office in the country, according to Kajtazovic.
Kajtazovic has worked for mortgage and insurance companies.
James Q. Lynch of the Courier Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.