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Braley, Bruce Lowell

Published onJul 30, 2021
Braley, Bruce Lowell

(October 30, 1957 - )

Quick Facts

Alumnus Bruce Braley served as U.S. Representative for the first district from 2006 - 2014.


Source: Bruce Braley official 110th Congress photo portrait

Bruce Lowell Braley had lived in Iowa his entire life. He was born in Grinnell, Iowa, the seat of Poweshiek County, and raised in nearby Brooklyn. He attained is Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa. Since that time he and his family have lived in Waterloo, Iowa, where he practices law and serves as a Democratic U.S. Congressman for Iowa’s first congressional district.1

Byard Braley, Bruce’s father, was born and raised in rural Poweshiek County and attended school through the height of the Great Depression. Upon graduation from Montezuma High School in 1943, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and fought in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, including the battle on Iwo Jima. In 1952, he married Bruce’s mother, Marcia, and worked, even through times of adversity and injury, until his death in 1981. Byard was also a strong community member and volunteer, serving through his church, various civic organizations, and county government.2 Byard’s work ethic and support for his community were deeply impactful to Bruce.

His mother Marcia (Sherwood) Braley, born in 1929, showed Bruce the same principles of family, community, and work ethic. One such way she did this was when Bruce was still young and his father was suffering from a grain elevator injury. At that time she decided to earn her teaching degree from the University of Northern Iowa and teach at the local school. Not only did this help support the family, but she became an important part of the local community as well. At the time of this writing, Marcia is still alive and working as a substitute teacher, and as Bruce is often proud to share, she has been teaching and guiding young people for over 50 years.3

Indeed, these actions helped form the person who Bruce Braley was to become. Bruce took on his first job in elementary, delivering the Des Moines Tribune throughout his neighborhood. Like his father and mother, he has been working ever since; he has de-tassled corn, baled hay, and worked at the local grain elevator like his father. To pay his way through college at Iowa State University and Law school at the University of Iowa, Bruce took on a number of different jobs. He worked on a road and bridge construction crew, he waited tables, and he tended a bar. 4 These were all done in addition to the numerous leadership roles and extra-curricular activities he took on, including musical theatre, Phi Kappa Psi service opportunities, and walking onto the ISU football team.5 He graduated from ISU in 1980 with a degree in Political Science.

This is not to say that times were always so serious for Bruce. He often took some time for himself, and in 1976, decided to attend an Eagles concert. It was there that he met his future wife, Carolyn, whom he would marry in 1983 upon the completion of his Juris Doctorate at the University of Iowa.6 At that time Bruce and Carolyn moved to Waterloo and started a family. They now have three children: Lisa, David, and Paul.

Bruce began his legal career in Waterloo, and according to his official website, he represented, “people against some of the most powerful corporations in the world.” Bruce represented factory workers challenging unsafe company policies and stood up for people who lost their jobs and pensions when no one else would. He also represented small businesses struggling with government red tape.7

This same style of language and attitude has been prevalent in his political career as well. In 2006, Bruce was elected to serve as U.S. Representative for Iowa’s first congressional district. To do so, he bested opponent Mike Whalen in a district that had not elected a Democratic congressman for nearly three decades. Since that election, Braley won all three consecutive re-election campaigns: defeating David Hartsuch in 2008, and Ben Lange in both 2010 and 2012.8

During this tenure as congressman, Bruce Braley’s legislative efforts have been focused on supporting American veterans, supporting small businesses, and putting people back to work. Issues regarding education and agriculture have also been among his top priorities, which became evident immediately after he took office in 2007.9 The first bill that Bruce introduced to congress was H.R. 872: the National Endowment for Workforce Education in Renewables and Agriculture Act of 2007, also called the NEW ERA Act. This act was not enacted by the congress, but demonstrates Braley’s dedication to making education— specifically agricultural education—available to a larger number of people. It would have created grants available to secondary, technical, and university level students interested in agricultural and bio-energy careers.10

Among the 197 bills sponsored and cosponsored by Braley are: H.R. 3554: Veterans Access to Care Act, H.R. 3094: Tuition Relief for Students Acct of 2013, H.Res. 269: …to support the Department of Agriculture through 2018, H.R. 1704: Support our Startups Act of 2013, H.R. 1283: Main Street Stabilization Act of 2013, H.R. 6177: Support our Startups Act of 2012, H.R. 3865: College Tax Cut Extension Act of 2012, and H.R. 5733: The Ed Thomas Act of 2010. Bruce currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has previously served on the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.11

Bruce has visited Iowa State University multiple times since his first election. Among these visits are a November 2013 visit to discuss issues faced by veteran students and a March 2014 visit to discuss questions of financial aid.12

In honor of his parents, Bruce founded the Byard Braley Scholarship fund, which awards scholarships to injured workers and their family members for the purpose of pursuing higher education.13 He has served on the Iowa Legal Aid Board of Directors, as well as the Waterloo Dollars for Scholars Board and the Waterloo Historic Preservation Commission. Additionally, Bruce has volunteered through his church, volunteered as football coach, and was named with Carolyn as Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ Couple of the Year in 1995.14

Braley ran for election to the U.S. Senate in 2014 but was unsuccessful against Joni Ernst. He moved to Colorado in 2015 to join the law firm Leventhal & Puga, P.C.

Selected Sources

[1]   “Bruce Braley,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: 1774-Present, published digitally by the United States Congress, (accessed March 2014). “Official Biography of Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01),” United States House of Representatives. A PDF version of this document can be attained at (accessed March 2014).

[2]   “Obituary for Byard C. Braley,” Grinnell Herald-Register, 16 March 1981.

[3]  “About Bruce,” published digitally by Bruce Braley for Iowa, can be accessed online at: (accessed March 2014).

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Will McIntee, Deputy District Director for Congressman Bruce Braley, personal interview by author, Dubuque, Iowa, 31 December 2013.

[6] “About Bruce,” published digitally by Bruce Braley for Iowa, can be accessed online at: (accessed March 2014).

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Lorraine Miller, Clerk of the House of Representatives, Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 2006; Lorraine Miller, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Statistics of the Presidential Election Congressional Election of November 4, 2008; Karen Haas, Clerk of the House of Representatives Statistic of the Congressional Election of November 2, 2010. The federal election commission makes all campaign and campaign finance information public. To view that of Bruce Braley’s, visit: (accessed March 2014).

[9]  Will McIntee, Deputy District Director for Congressman Bruce Braley, personal interview by author, Dubuque, Iowa, 31 December 2013.

[10]  While the act itself was not enacted, wording was borrowed and used within the 2008 Farm Bill. The National Dairy Center, in Calmar, Iowa, was funded in large part by this service. Will McIntee, Deputy District Director for Congressman Bruce Braley, personal interview by author, Dubuque, Iowa, 31 December 2013; Bruce Braley, H.R. 872 – National Endowment for Workforce Education in Renewables and Agriculture Act of 2007.

[11] A complete listing of all bills/resolutions sponsored and co-sponsored by Bruce, as well as his voting record in the House of Representatives, can be accessed online through Govtrack offers full text versions of each bill and resolution. Govtrack is sponsored by Civic Impulse LLC.

[12]  “Braley Continues Student Veteran Listening Tour at Iowa State University,” Press Release, Rep. Braley Congressional Office, 6 Novemeber 2013. “Braley Meets with Iowa State Student Government Leaders,” Press Release, Rep. Braley Congressional Office, 7 March 2014.

[13] “The Byard Braley Scholarship Fund” information brochure, Iowa Association for Justice and the Iowa Civil Justice Foundation. A digital version of this brochure can be accessed online at, Iowa Association for Justice (accessed March 2013).

[14]  Will McIntee, Deputy District Director for Congressman Bruce Braley, personal interview by author, Dubuque, Iowa, 31 December 2013.

About the Author
Ray Werner was raised in Dysart, Iowa. He graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa with degrees in History and International Studies and a minor in Archaeology. He is completing his Master’s Degree in History through the University of Northern Iowa. He currently lives in Dubuque with his wife, Kelsey, and English Springer Spaniel, Elsa. He is the Curator and Assistant Director for the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society, in Galena, Illinois.
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