Today in Iowa hosts Democratic congressional debate - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Today in Iowa hosts Democratic congressional debate

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WATERLOO (KWWL) - The five Democratic candidates vying for the U.S. Congressional seat sat down Friday, March 7 on KWWL's Today in Iowa.

The three Republican candidates for the same seat will join Today in Iowa on Friday, March 14.

The Democratic candidates were as follows:

Swati Dandekar

Swati Dandekar of Marion, Iowa was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 2002. She served the Marion, Iowa area in that capacity until she was elected to represent them in the Iowa Senate in 2009. She was the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, vice chair of the Economic Development Budget subcommittee, and was elected President of the National Foundation of Women Legislators in 2011.

In 2011 Dandekar was appointed as the Democratic member of the Iowa Utilities Board. Until her resignation from the Board she was a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and served on the NARUC Committee on Telecommunications and the Committee on International Relations. Dandekar was also a member of the Mid-American Regulatory Conference and served on the Advisory Council of the Iowa Energy Center in Ames. In addition, she serves on the advisory board of the National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and is a member of the Federal-State Joint Conference on Advance Telecommunications Services and on the board of directors for the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel.

Dandekar holds a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Nagpur University and a post graduate diploma in dietetics from Bombay University in India. She served on the Linn-Mar School Board, the Iowa Association of School Boards, Vision Iowa Board, U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, Iowa Math and Science Coalition, Greater Cedar Rapids Foundation, Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted and Talented, Iowa Innovation Council, and Iowa Public Health Commission.

Honors bestowed upon Dandekar include the 2000 J.C. Penney Education Golden Rule Award, India Abroad 2002 Person of the Year, 2003 Pillar of the Community Award from Waypoint, Asian Alliance of Iowa 2003 Person of the Year, 2004 Flemming Institute Fellow, Iowa's 2006 Passport to Prosperity Award, and Asian Week's 2008 Asia Pacific American Person of the Year.

Swati and her husband, Arvind, reside in Marion, Iowa. They have two sons, Ajai with wife, Allison, and sons Evan and William, as well as Govind, his wife Shaneeda, and daughter Ayaana.

More on Swati Dandekar can be found at:

Anesa Kajtazovic

Anesa Kajtazovic and her family immigrated to Waterloo, Iowa in 1997 from war-torn Bosnia. Arriving in Iowa was a second chance at life and a shot at the American Dream, which Anesa exemplifies. She attributes her success to her parents instilling in her that with hard work anything is possible in this country, but she is aware that attaining the American Dream is becoming increasingly difficult for middle class Americans.
In 2010, Rep. Kajtazovic became the youngest woman elected to the Iowa legislature at the age of 24. She said she knocked on over 7,000 doors and made over 2,000 phone calls to receive 59% of the vote over longtime Waterloo mayor, John Rooff. In the legislature, she currently serves on Appropriations, Commerce, State Government, Veteran Affairs and Economic Development Budget-Sub committees. She previously served on Ways and Means and Local Government. She's part of American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and NewDeal Leaders.
She's been part of bi-partisan international delegations to China and Taiwan. Last year, she was named one of Courier's 20 under 40 award recipients and one of three legislators awarded to be part of the Council of State Governments BILLD program. During her time in the legislature, Rep. Kajtazovic championed for education, access to quality and affordable health care for all Iowans, renewable energy, preserving our natural resources, growing jobs in Iowa, and campaign finance reform laws.

More on Anesa Kajtazovic can be found at:

Pat Murphy

First elected by special election to the Iowa House in 1989, Pat Murphy served as the House Democratic Minority Leader from 2003 - 2006 and as Speaker of the Iowa House from 2007 - 2010 before stepping down from leadership in 2011. During his time in the legislature, Pat has built a proven record on progressive issues, leading successful efforts to raise Iowa's minimum wage, increase teacher salaries to the national average, expand the use of alternative energy, establish a program that enables seniors to remain in their own homes longer, increase education benefits for Iowa veterans and extend health care coverage to 40,000 Iowa children. Most recently, Pat stood up to right-wing efforts to take away a woman's right to choose and blocked all efforts to add a discriminatory gay marriage ban to Iowa's state constitution.
Pat was born and raised in Dubuque, the ninth of ten children. Pat's parents, Larry and Eileen Murphy, raised Pat and his siblings to work hard and do the right thing. His father served three years in the Pacific theater as an Army infantryman during WWII. Upon returning home, he became an officer in CWA Local 7110 while working for U.S. West and AT&T. His mother stayed home to raise the family and was active in the Dubuque community, joining the St. Vincent DePaul Society and volunteering with the school lunch program and city mission. Pat has followed their example of community leadership by volunteering with local youth sports in Dubuque, as a fundraiser for the United Way and on the Dubuque Cable Commission.
Pat married Teri Ann Gulick in 1980. They have four children, Jacob, John, Joe and Natalie, and are active members of St. Joseph's the Worker Catholic Church in Dubuque. Pat is a graduate of Dubuque Wahlert and Loras College, where he earned a B.A. in Speech Communication with minors in History and Political Science.

More on Pat Murphy can be found at:

Dave O'Brien

Dave O'Brien is a native Iowan and lifelong progressive Democrat who has spent his career standing up for the rights of Iowans as an attorney. He is running for congress in Iowa's 1st District to be an advocate for reinvigorating the middle class, taking meaningful action on climate change, and creating new economic opportunities in the 1st District.
For years, Dave has been on the front lines of elected progressive Democrats and fighting for the a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.
Dave was the Iowa chair of the 1992 Clinton campaign, which successfully sent President Clinton the White House and began eight years of tremendous economic prosperity for the nation. During the Clinton administration Dave served in the Department of Labor, under Secretary Robert Reich. Dave held leadership roles in the Department of Labor, including chair of the Administrative Review Board and direct of the Office of Administrative Appeals, where he worked to enforce and implement progressive labor policies which protected the rights of workers.
Moving back to Iowa to raise his children, Dave became active in local politics as a member of the Linn County Central Committee. Dave also played a supportive role in both Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack's election to Congress in 2006, and has been active in their campaigns since. Then, during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, Dave held a leadership position with Joe Biden's campaign in Iowa.
Dave O'Brien. Since returning to Iowa, Dave and his wife, Stacey, have grown their family. In addition to their two daughters, Samara and Ansley, they have adopted two sons, Shawn and Tyler, and have acted as foster parents for several children over the years.
Dave is a graduate of the University of Iowa School of Law. Working as an attorney for 30 years, Dave's law practice now focuses on fighting for Iowans who have had their constitutional rights trampled on. Dave has become known as a fierce advocate for his clients and he is running for Congress to be an advocate for everyone in the 1st District. His work has been recognized by fellow attorneys, who awarded him the Iowa Association for Justice Verne Lawyer Outstanding Member Award and the Iowa Association for Justice Roxanne Conlin Public Justice Award.
Follow Dave on Twitter and join the campaign on Facebook.

More on candidate O'Brien can be found at:

Monica Vernon

Monica Vernon is a Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Iowa's 1st congressional district.

First elected in 2007, Monica Vernon is currently serving her second four-year term on the Cedar Rapids City Council. She is serving her fifth year as Mayor Pro Tempore, Chair of the Council's Community/Economic Development Committee and past Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization where she worked with Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Ely, Fairfax and Linn County.

Monica has been instrumental in driving the successful recovery of Cedar Rapids after a historic 2008 flooding disaster. As part of the recovery efforts, Monica helped coordinate the recovery work with federal, state and local agencies, local not for profits, neighborhood organizations, local labor unions, and businesses to bring back housing, businesses, jobs and public facilities in the affected area that encompassed approximately 1/6 of the city. Monica is proud of the work that has been done to make the city better than ever while maintaining service delivery and growth in the rest of the community.

Prior to becoming a member of city council, Monica Vernon built a reputation for progressive leadership in her community. She spearheaded local efforts to raise $1.7 million to build the Madge Phillips Center for homeless women and children. In 2013, Trees Forever honored her with their Advocate of the Year award. Monica has also been an advocate for jobs & economic development, civil & human rights, affordable housing, diversity and inclusion, education, neighborhood safety, and other quality of life issues affecting the region.

A small business owner by trade, Monica is the founder and former president of Vernon Research Group, a 26 year-old market research firm that serves business and industry, government, education, health care, and not for profits. Prior to founding Vernon Research Group, Monica served as community relations director for Mount Mercy University and worked as a reporter for The Gazette. She has also been an adjunct faculty member of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center in the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa.

A life-long Iowan, Monica Vernon holds a BA in Journalism and an MBA from the University of Iowa. She and her husband Bill have three adult daughters - Natalie, Frances, and Eleanor.

More on Monica Vernon can be found at:

Check back next week for information on the Republican candidates
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