WAVERLY - U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, said the most influential politician in his life was a Republican.
And his grandfather.
"The political figure most important in my life was my grandfather Cliff Braley who was a Republican county supervisor in Poweshiek County," Braley said. "He taught me, and my parents taught me, the values that I bring to elective office. Those are the values of hard work, fair play, treating your neighbors the way you want to be treated, being a good listener, working hard to get things done and solve problems."
Braley said that was his grandfather's approach as he worked to get roads graded, bridges built and support for other progress.
"I think Iowans, regardless of party, are hungry for leadership that inspires them and makes them want to vote for someone, not just vote against someone else," Braley said in a recent interview with The Daily Times Herald and La Prensa Iowa Hispanic Newspaper following an event in Waverly.
Braley can find public-service inspiration closer on his family tree. His father, Byard served in the Marines and fought at Iwo Jima.
Moving to issues, on the minimum wage, Braley supports development of an index that would keep up with the rate of inflation, what he called "a reasonable cost-of-living adjustment," rather than an arbitrary figure.
"It's important that it rises and you don't have to wait for some congressional action to keep up with the cost of living," Braley said.
Braley, who grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa, said he understands that minimum wages can affect rural and urban communities differently.
"That's why I'm more inclined to support something that matches to a regular index the way we do with Social Security benefits," Braley said.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn't been raised since 2009. President Barack Obama, in his State Of The Union speech last month, proposed raising it to $9 an hour. This week, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the legislator Braley is seeking to replace when Harkin retires in 2014, is expected to introduce legislation hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
In the interview, Braley also expressed grave concerns with recent reports that the Chinese organizations have hacked into computer systems in the United States.
"It's very alarming news," he said.
The Chinese military is chief suspect in the hacking.
In the State Of The Union speech, the president said "our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems."
Braley said congressmen who have traveled to China have had their Blackberrys or iPhones or other electronic devices hacked, even with encryption devices in place as countermeasures.
The Waterloo congressman said it is part of a larger problem of online piracy, which impacts billions of dollars worth of American products.
"We see online piracy, a lot of it coming out of China, that diminishes the value of what U.S. companies produce," Braley said. "We need to have a very serious discussion about our policy toward China."
With regard to a raft of immigration issues, Braley said that when he first ran for Congress, he developed websites in both Spanish and Bosnian to reach immigrant communities.
"I wanted to appeal to all the voters who had an opportunity to learn about me and vote," Braley said.
Additionally, Braley said, he has represented Marshalltown, a heavily Latino community. Braley also has personally mentored immigrants with reading.
Braley said the United States faces a major issue with a backlog on a number of immigration issues.
"That's a result of not having the necessary resources to process the existing applications for green cards and other visas that are necessary for people looking to work and live in this country," Braley said.
But there's a bigger question, he said.
"When are we as a country going to get serious about comprehensive immigration reform, including things like making sure we have adequate staff to process the applications for green cards and visas that we have already pending?" Braley said. "It's been unfortunate that this has been a political football for too long. I have been a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform since I first ran for Congress."
He said lawmakers and stakeholders in the debate need to dispense with the use of certain words and language intended to drive people apart on immigration.
Braley said he will campaign aggressively in all parts of Iowa. He's been to Carroll and said he's is impressed with the city.
"When you drive through the community, the one thing that I notice about it, is how clean and neat it is, and how much people care about their community," Braley said.
Braley is the lone Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Iowa in 2014. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and GOP Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey have said they're exploring campaigns for the office.