For the first time in nearly 40 years, Iowa has an open United States Senate seat.
The crashing waves created in state politics washed up in Fort Dodge Wednesday - albeit quietly.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who seeks to succeed fellow Democrat Tom Harkin in the 2014 election, hosted a morning meet and greet at Bloomers on Central.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, stops to chat with Ramona Weins, center, and Royana Webster, right, during a campaign stop at Bloomer’s on Central Wednesday.
Braley - clad casually in a navy blazer and blue jeans - spent most of an hour chatting with patrons at the downtown coffee shop.
During his first foray into Fort Dodge, which kicked off a two-day, seven-city tour of western Iowa, Braley made no formal remarks, instead swapping anecdotes with the approximately 12 patrons in attendance.
A native of Poweshiek County, Braley currently lives in Waterloo. He represents Iowa's 1st Congressional District, which covers the northeast quadrant of the state.
As such, Braley is somewhat of an unknown entity west of Interstate 35.
However, he expressed confidence that he can succeed in his first statewide race.
"People don't define themselves by what part of the state they're from," he said.
Rather, Braley said his message will reverberate for all Iowans.
Braley said he hopes to carry on several of Harkin's causes, including strengthening and expanding the middle class, providing first-class care for veterans and investment in education.
"Both of us grew up in Iowa and benefited from the state's robust and thriving middle class," he said.
Though Harkin has not formally endorsed Braley, the four-term congressman has picked up the support of most of the Iowa Democratic establishment, including fellow Rep. David Loebsack, Attorney General Tom Miller, Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald,
On Wednesday, Braley's campaign announced endorsements from all 26 Democratic state Senators, as well as 45 of the 47 Democratic members of the Iowa House of Representatives - making the prospect of a primary challenge unlikely. Earlier in the week, Braley announced that he raised more than $1 million for his campaign in the first quarter of 2013.
A Republican challenger has yet to emerge. U.S. Rep. Steve King whose district includes Fort Dodge, has expressed interest in the seat.
"I think (Braley) is smart getting out early," said Ed O'Leary, a longtime Democratic activist from Fort Dodge who made his first acquaintance at the Wednesday event. "He's a formidable candidate."