CEDAR RAPIDS — Seeing Iowans are working harder but not getting ahead, Thomas Heckroth has decided to run for Congress to put in place policies “that invest in people ... that allow Iowans to take hold of our future and go where we want it to go.”

He’s running “because we need an economy that values work more than wealth,” Heckroth said Monday. “We need to stop leaders from rewriting the rules to favor billionaires and corporations and commit to strengthening working families.”

Heckroth, 33, of Cedar Falls has been meeting with Democrats around the 20-county 1st Congressional District and made it official Monday, filing with the Federal Election Commission.

He joins a primary field of three other candidates, but he said Democrats have to keep their focus on the incumbent, Rep. Rod Blum, R-Dubuque.

“His votes have put billionaires ahead of Iowans,” he said. Blum’s vote for the GOP health care plan Heckroth said would take health insurance away from 23 million Americans “is not investing in people, it is not helping Iowans own their future.”

Blum’s vote to dismantle Dodd-Frank regulations, which “puts Wall Street ahead of Iowans, makes no sense to me.”

Blum may be the ultimate target, but it was Heckroth in the crosshairs Monday as one of his rivals questioned his qualifications even before he announced his candidacy.

Dubuque Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s campaign manager wasted no time taking a shot at Heckroth for “living in New York and D.C. for the past decade.”

Noting that Finkenauer has chosen to “give back to her community here in Iowa,” Joe Farrell said 1st District residents “need a leader who understands the issues they care about on a personal level, not from East Coast talking points.”

“There is too much at stake in 2018, and Iowans do not have time to wait for someone to catch up on the challenges that Iowa’s families are facing,” she said.

Heckroth, a sixth-generation Iowan, thinks his work on behalf of Iowans as a member of Sen. Tom Harkin’s staff and in the Department of Labor during the Obama administration — at which time he lived in Washington, D.C., for about five years — “stands on its own.”

“I’m as Iowan as it gets,” said Heckroth, who grew up in Waverly and graduated from the University of Iowa.

Following his government service, Heckroth earned a master’s degree in business administration and was director of sustainable manufacturing for a clothing maker that supplied brands such as Levi’s and Nike. That job took him to New York City beginning in 2013.

If Iowans and Americans are going to “take on the future,” as Heckroth is calling for, the federal government needs to invest in education and job training, “so Iowans are ready for the good-paying jobs.” He wants to see more investment in research, which is at a 40-year low as a percentage of the gross domestic product, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

There’s also a need to invest in infrastructure — roads, broadband and schools, he said.

“Good-paying jobs come from investment and encouraging innovation,” he said. “If we make smart investments, we can build a strong future.”

In addition to Finkenauer, Heckroth joins Courtney Rowe, an aerospace engineer at Rockwell Collins, and George Ramsey III, a former military recruiter who works at Four Oaks in Cedar Rapids, in the race. Others, including Linn County supervisors Stacey Walker and Brent Oleson and Sen. Jeff Danielson of Waterloo are considering the race.

Democrats will pick a nominee in the June 2018 primary to challenge Blum, who has announced he’s running for a third term.

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