CEDAR RAPIDS — As he explores a campaign for the U.S. House, Thomas Heckroth keeps in mind that the title “representative” also is a job description.
If he runs, it is because he wants to be a voice for Iowans in the House, Heckroth said Wednesday in Cedar Rapids. He is touring Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, “kicking the tires.”
What Heckroth is hearing as he meets with Democrats is that northeast Iowans have pocketbook concerns.
“The American dream is not necessarily working for them,” said Heckroth, 33, of Cedar Falls. “They’re wondering how to make ends meet. They’re worried about health care.”
Heckroth, who plans to make a decision whether to run by this fall, said it’s too soon for him to be offering solutions, so for the most part, he’s listening to those concerns to learn “what drives them and what keeps them up at night.”
If he runs, Heckroth will have competition for the Democratic nomination. Courtney Rowe, a Cedar Rapids aeronautical engineer, and Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque are the only announced candidates in the June 2018 primary.
Cedar Falls firefighter and fourth-term Iowa Sen. Jeff Danielson plans to make a decision by September whether to seek the nomination. Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker and Brent Oleson are considering the race.
Democrats, who hope to win back control of the U.S. House, are targeting the 1st District because of their voter registration advantage. According to the Iowa Secretary of State Office, there are 170,269 Democrats, 148,556 Republicans and 201,000 no-party voters among the 522,983 registered voters in the district.
Heckroth is finding that people in the 20-county northeast Iowa district that includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Marshalltown and Dubuque are “open to a discussion of solutions, of good ideas.”
The good ideas aren’t exclusive to one party, but Heckroth said incumbent GOP Rep. Rod Blum “seems to be taking the Republican line” and rarely disagrees with President Donald Trump.
“I don’t think that’s what Iowans are looking for,” he said. “They want someone who is willing to engage Democrats and independents.”
That’s what he saw while working for Sen. Tom Harkin on agriculture, education and labor issues.
In addition to working for Harkin, Heckroth’s political experience includes helping his father, Bill Heckroth, get elected to the Iowa Senate. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration.
Heckroth graduated from Waverly-Shell Rock High School and the University of Iowa, where he was a walk-on on the baseball team. He earned his master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University.
Until May, he was director of sustainable manufacturing and sourcing for Haddad Brands, which makes children’s clothing for brands including Nike, Brand Jordan, Converse and Levi’s.
He and his wife, Naomi, live in Cedar Falls.