A Profile of 2016 1st District Democratic Candidate Monica Vernon

Jun 3, 2016

Monica Vernon chats with voters in the First District
Credit Courtesy photo

In advance of next Tuesday’s primary election, IPR is bringing you interviews and stories about the candidates and the issues. Here is a profile of Democratic candidate Monica Vernon, who’s in the First District Congressional race.

Monica Vernon has been here before. She ran for the Democratic nomination in 2014 in a five-way primary and came in second to former Iowa lawmaker Pat Murphy. She and Murphy are back on the ballot this time around.  Vernon says she’s ready to pick up where she left off, especially on the issue of increasing the minimum wage.

"I know my opponent has said he’d more than double where we are overnight," she says.  "As a small business owner you need to plan, people are hurting, they need this increase and in Johnson County now people have gotten two bumps and the third will be at the end of the year and they’ll get to $10.10.  They have also tied it to the cost of living, I think. So I like that, while the rest of us were just talking about it, they did something. I think that it’s important that we hammer some of these things out and we get something done.” 

Vernon has been a Cedar Rapids city council member since 2007. She was instrumental in helping in the city’s flood recovery effort in 2008 by pulling together local, state and federal agencies to aid in the rebuilding process.  Vernon says that experience has helped her understand that urban areas are greatly affected by the current downturn in the agriculture sector. 

“Agriculture is huge," she says. "No matter who you are in the state of Iowa it affects you.  At the same time I think we need to help farmers diversify meaning as people eat different and look at different crops and uses of those crops. We need to find more places to trade but to make sure trade agreements are ones we can stand by and don’t take jobs from Iowans.”

Vernon and Murphy have similar views on a woman’s right to choose, on protecting same sex marriage and expanding civil rights. The biggest difference is that for many years, Monica Vernon was a Republican.

“My opponent, I think that’s the only thing he has, so he continues to hammer on this," Vernon says. "There’s a reason why the biggest Democrats in the state and the nation are supporting me. Why is it that Attorney General Tom Miller, and Secretary of State Mike Fitzgerald and the only Iowa Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack, and dozens of representatives, are the only ones who’ve endorsed anyone in this race [and] have endorsed me?” 

Vernon says she believes she’s the right person to represent Iowa’s First District because first term Republican Rod Blum is out of touch.

“Here’s a guy who spent a half million dollars on campaign-like ads that were paid for by the people’s money. I think there’s a lot of things about this guy that just seems wrong for Iowa," she says. "On the other hand, I’m the kind of candidate who rolls up their sleeves and gets things done.  I think people want to hear from you one on one. I wouldn’t spend money on flyers, I’d spend on real life people who answer the phone.”

Until Rod Blum was elected in 2014 Iowa’s 1st District tended to vote Democratic. The District covers 20 counties in Northeast Iowa and includes the cities of Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.