Rep. Bruce Braley (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Oct. 30, 1957, Grinnell .
Education: IA St. U., B.A. 1980, U. of IA, J.D. 1983.
Family: Married (Carolyn); 3 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1983-2006.
The congressman from the 1st District is Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo elected in 2006 to replace Republican Jim Nussle, who ran unsuccessfully for governor. Braley is a native of Brooklyn, Iowa. His mother was a teacher and his father was a farmer who died of injuries sustained in a fall down a grain elevator. The family struggled financially for years as a result. Braley graduated from Iowa State University and got his law degree from the University of Iowa. He was a trial lawyer and is a former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association. His candidacy for Congress drew considerable financial support from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and many of its members and officers, connections that made him the target of lawyer-bashing. National Republicans disparaged him as “a trial lawyer’s trial lawyer.” In the June primary, Braley overcame two competitive opponents: former state Rep. Rick Dickinson, an economic development official in Dubuque, and Bill Gluba, a real estate agent in Davenport. Although Braley was making his first run for office, he had a distinct fundraising advantage and the support of the Iowa AFL-CIO. He won 36% to 34% for Dickinson and 26% for Gluba. Meanwhile, Republicans nominated Mike Whalen, a Harvard Law School graduate, wealthy entrepreneur, and owner of the Machine Shed restaurant chain.
|Bruce Braley (D)||186,991||(65%)||($979,333)|
|David Hartsuch (R)||102,439||(35%)||($54,604)|
|Bruce Braley (D)||10,596||(99%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (55%)
From the start, Republicans knew it would be a tough contest. In his eight terms, outgoing Rep. Nussle never got more than 57% of the vote despite his prominence as the chairman of the House Budget Committee from 2001 to 2006. The candidates disagreed on many issues, including the Iraq war, tort reform, international trade deals, and abortion rights. Braley portrayed Whalen as an out-of-touch millionaire. He claimed that Whalen wanted to privatize Social Security, and he attacked Whalen’s opposition to raising the hourly minimum wage. When Whalen insisted that all his employees were paid more than the federal minimum wage, Braley produced a Machine Shed waitress who claimed that, even with tips, she and her co-workers earned only the minimum wage. Whalen charged that Braley’s litigious occupation contributed to higher health care costs and the medical liability crisis. Although the National Republican Congressional Committee spent heavily on direct mail and television ads against Braley, it wasn’t enough to keep the seat in Republican hands. Braley won surprisingly easily, 55%-43%. He took each of the 12 counties, except for two rural counties. As expected, he ran strongly in Waterloo’s Black Hawk County, with 59%; but he also took Whalen’s Quad Cities base in Scott County, with 53%.
Braley initially got seats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (to tend to local projects) and on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee (to utilize his trial-lawyer skills), and was among the more active members of his freshman class. He won House passage of a bill to require federal agencies to write in plain English, a longtime interest from his days practicing law. He took up the cause of veterans who had been neglected in government hospitals. The 2008 farm bill included his provision to fund advanced technology education centers to train technicians in renewable-energy resources. Braley’s ambition led to talk of his joining the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, which he did in December 2008. That year, he also was re-elected easily. Some local Democrats have mentioned Braley as a possible contender if one of Iowa’s two veteran senators retires.