Bolkcom plots vision for reelection


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Democrats have a slim one-seat majority in the Iowa Senate, while Republicans control the House and the Governor’s Office. The 2014 election cycle will see Democrats try to build their Senate majority and reclaim the House.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, kicked off fundraising for his 2014 re-election campaign on Nov. 13 at the Sanctuary Pub, 405 S. Gilbert St. Several prominent Iowa Democrats were in attendance, including Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, former head of Iowa Democrats Sue Dvorsky, and Chairman of Johnson County Democrats Mike Carberry.

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, who also spoke at the event, said that the Democratic majority in the Senate has prevented damage to the middle class.

“Thanks to 26 senators, 26,000 students will get lunch every day at school,” she said, referring to the free- and reduced-lunch program. “Thanks to 26 senators, there aren’t going to be new voter-suppression laws, requiring voter IDs to vote.”

Bolkcom said there was other legislation they had prevented that benefited the middle class.
“We’ve been able to prevent the retrenchment of policies against collective bargaining,” he said. “Taxes on collective bargaining hurt the middle class, and they hurt democracy.”

While Iowa Democrats want to empower labor, Republicans believe in empowering the employers of labor, which is to say, small businesses. Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said Republicans are working toward a more competitive business climate.

“We’re working on a more competitive tax code,” he said before the fundraiser. “We want to reward entrepreneurs, people who create new jobs.”

He said that if tax policies encourage business growth, which would increase state revenue, which would in turn benefit the middle class.

Democrats, meanwhile, take a different approach to building the middle class. Jochum said Bolkcom has an “unwavering commitment to expanding and empowering the middle class.”

Another issue Bolkcom spoke about was raising the minimum wage.

“There’s huge income inequality in this state,” he said. “In the next session we want to raise minimum wage to help fight that. Governor Branstad is against raising the minimum wage.”

Jimmy Centers, a campaign spokesman for Branstad, said the governor hasn’t taken an official stance on minimum wage yet.

Bolkcom said for Democrats to make real legislative progress, such as raising the minimum wage, they will need to retake the House.

“We have a real opportunity to win the House majority this election cycle,” he said.

Bolkcom benefits from having the most liberal constituency in Iowa. Carberry said Johnson County Democrats have a 2:1 majority over Republicans.

“I am thrilled to work for this district,” Bolkcom said. “Thanks to my voters, I’m able to pursue projects that other senators can’t.”

Carberry said he believes Democrats are poised to retake the House in 2014 since Republicans are a “little too right-wing for voters” and lost some ground in 2012.

“Right now, the Iowa House is 53-47 in favor of Republicans,” he said. “Before the last election, it was 60-40. And some of the races we lost were incredibly close; I’m talking 100 votes made the difference.”

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