Iowa Democrats -- who may be contesting as many as three open House races -- already have a pair of high-profile candidates in the run-up to 2014. Businessman Mike Sherzan -- a DCCC recruit -- isn't waiting on Rep. Tom Latham's decision on the state's open-seat Senate race to launch a bid in the 3rd District. Meanwhile, state Rep. Pat Murphy says his long legislative tenure and well-developed party connections make him the logical choice to succeed Rep. Bruce Braley, already a Senate candidate, in the 1st.
But despite their strong credentials and early entry into the race, Sherzan and Murphy shouldn't expect to see party support coalesce behind them anytime soon. With the sure shakeup 2014 will bring to Iowa's long-static political landscape, Democrats see an opportunity to finally elect a woman to Congress; the Hawkeye State is one of five states that have never done so. Operatives mention a number of women who have expressed interest in running, and after years of limited political turnover, some don't want to miss their window to make history.
"I think there will be people who will be disappointed if we don't have a woman nominee for Congress. I'd love to cast my vote here in the 3rd District for a qualified, progressive woman candidate," said Democratic strategist Greg Hauenstein. "2014 is the year we break that glass ceiling."
EMILY's List spokeswoman Jess McIntosh echoed that sentiment. "I think that that's going to matter to voters," she said. "The 2012 election was a mandate for women's leadership, and we saw glass ceilings shatter all over the country."
"Iowa has a number of opportunities this year to break its own glass ceiling," McIntosh continued. "I think that's going to matter to women voters in Iowa."
Potential candidates include state Rep. Liz Mathis, a former TV anchor who was noted for her "statewide appeal" and name recognition by one national Democrat who spoke with Hotline On Call late last month. State Senate President Pam Jochum, the Democrat said, is well-connected and "would have a lot of support in the legislature and statewide." Both Mathis and Jochum live in the 1st District.
Others mentioned former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, who earned plaudits despite a losing campaign against GOP Rep. Steve King in 2012. However, operatives say they're unsure of her interest in running again, or in which district she'd be inclined to mount a race. She moved to Ames prior to her run in King's 4th District.
In the 3rd District, Dr. Andy McGuire, a health care advocate, is seen as a potential candidate -- although the governor's race might also be in her sights.
Republicans think they have a chance to break the barrier as well, although most don't see it as a make-or-break issue. Most of the potential female GOP candidates live in the 3rd or 4th Districts, so their campaigns would be dependent on Latham or King running for Senate.
In the 3rd, lieutenant governor Kim Reynolds, Republican National Committeewoman Tamara Scott and state Rep. Kim Pearson are all mentioned as potential candidates. State Rep. Linda Upmeyer holds possibility in the 4th.
In a phone interview, Scott said a run for Congress is a "possibility," but downplayed gender-based support. "I would like to think that Iowa voters are going to vote for the best person for the job and not get cauight up on gender," she said. "Do we have women who could fill those shoes? We absolutely do."