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DES MOINES — Gary Kroeger is ending his bid for the Democratic nomination for a U.S. House seat and setting his sights on the Iowa Statehouse.

The Cedar Falls advertising executive launched his campaign a year ago to be a federal “legislator for the people, championing progressive ideas.”

Wednesday, he announced that a “true politician … must be willing to go where you are needed most: and believes that’s the Iowa Legislature.

The former "Saturday Night Live" cast member said he believes it is “imperative to put more progressive legislators in the Statehouse in order to stem the tide of (Gov. Terry Branstad’s) agenda that does not support working families, labor, students or the infirmed”

So he is looking at running in Iowa House 60 against Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, who briefly was a candidate for the 1st District U.S. House seat in 2014.

His decision leaves a two-way race between the Democratic nominee in 2014, former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque, and Monica Vernon, a former Cedar Rapids business owner and city councilwoman.

The winner of the June 7 primary will face first-term Republican Rep. Rod Blum of Dubuque.

As he campaigned in the 20-county 1st District, Kroeger said he became “increasingly aware of the fact the issues we’ve been talking about exist with the most relevance at the state level.”

He’s heard concerns that public schools have been given a low priority by Branstad and “complicit” legislators. Similarly, there are concerns with the privatization of Medicaid management and neglect of the state’s infrastructure.

“Many legislators are more interested in giving corporate tax breaks to lure companies, rather than to create what companies actually look for: Quality of Life,” Kroeger said.

Rogers, who already has filed for re-election to a fourth term, said he looks forward to a discussion of priorities should Kroeger challenge him.

Kroeger thanked 1st District Democrats for their support and asked them to understand his decision is not a compromise,

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“It has always been my primary goal to do public service at whatever level so that people who need a strong voice to represent them will get one,” he said.

If he runs, Kroeger will have the support of Murphy and Vernon.

“Gary will make an outstanding candidate,” Murphy said, adding that he will support Kroeger “the same way I have helped Democrats at all levels of the ballot for the last 26 years.”

He and Kroeger campaigned on raising the minimum wage, protecting workers and the need for a progressive vision at all levels of government, Murphy said, “So I’d be glad to have him fighting for those issues at the statehouse.

Vernon predicted Kroeger will make “an exceptional leader for our region in the Statehouse.”

“He’ll be a champion for our children’s education, growing Iowa’s economy and expanding access to health care,” she said. “I look forward to working with him side by side on the progressive issues we both care so much about.”

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