DES MOINES | Gary Kroeger, who wants to be a federal “legislator for the people, championing progressive ideas,” visited the Iowa Capitol on Thursday to gauge support for a bid to win the Democratic nomination in Iowa's 1st District.
The Cedar Falls advertising executive who returned home after an acting career that included a stint in the “Saturday Night Live” troupe from 1982-85, said the visit was part of his “due diligence” before making a decision on joining the quickly developing race.
“I need to do face time,” he said after meeting with the House Democratic caucus. “I need to get in front of unions, do the (Central Committee) meetings, have town hall meetings, I need to have fundraisers where I get to speak to people and get them excited.”
Kroeger acknowledged that as a first-time candidate he doesn’t have any political machinery behind him. However, he’s confident that progressive Democrats will embrace him.
“I’m the only person considering or who’s in the race already that is willing to brandish the sword of progressivism,” Kroeger said. “It is who I am.”
So far, two Democrats are vying for the nomination to face freshman Republican Rep. Rod Blum of Dubuque. Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon, who finished second in a five-way 1st District primary in 2014, and Cedar Rapids businessman Ravi Patel are seeking the nomination. Kroeger expects there will be more.
Without singling out any candidate or candidates, Kroeger said the Democrats didn’t inspire voters in 2014.
“I watched the candidates last year avoid certain things -- civil rights issues, gay rights, women rights,” he said. “I’m not going to avoid those things, I’m going to stand firmly behind them.
“I’m not going to tailor my message based on the polls. I am going to be prepared for all of the progressive issues,” Kroeger added. “I believe I would be the strongest candidate in terms of articulating that message.”
His message would include civil rights and environmental rights, education, an “intelligent foreign policy and compassionate immigration policy” and changing the economic policy "so it actually expands the middle class.”
He has an advantage in that he’s the only labor union member in the race or considering the race.
“My understanding of how I’ve been supported by unions in collective bargaining goes deep into my DNA,” he said, explaining he’s a member of the AFL-CIO Screen Actors Guild. “Others may be able talk a good game but I live a good game.
His union card will be important to working people who are “the salt of the earth and engine of this economy,” Kroeger said.