Congressman Dave Loebsack will retire after his current term comes to an end, reported the Quad Cities Times this afternoon. He has served in Congress since his 2006 election when he won in a surprise upset, and was Democrats’ lone federally-elected member from Iowa for four years after 2014.
An open seat in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District will almost certainly shoot to the top of both parties’ targeted races. Donald Trump carried the Southeast Iowa-based seat by four points in 2016, a sharp reversal from when Barack Obama won it in 2012 by 13 points. However, Democrats began to make up ground in the 2018 gubernatorial contest – Democrat Fred Hubbell won Iowa’s 2nd District by three points.
It will also mean that all four of Iowa’s four congressional districts could become targeted districts in the 2020 elections. Both Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne are in their first term after ousting Republican incumbents, both serving in traditional swing seats. While Steve King’s 4th District is heavily-Republican, he nearly lost in an upset to J.D. Scholten in 2018 after his continued racist comments blew up more than usual and tanked his support in the district. Congressional Republicans have stripped King of all committee assignments, and it is unlikely the national party will support him in his reelection.
Loebsack often over-performed the Democratic top-of-ticket by significant margins in most of his races. He effectively used his working-class roots and a message focus on bread-and-butter economic issues to win over many blue-collar and rural communities in the 2nd District.
Johnson County, which contains Iowa City, has long been the liberal base of the district, giving Democratic candidates upwards of 70% of the vote in recent years. Meanwhile, blue-collar, mid-sized towns like Muscatine, Burlington, and Ottumwa have quickly trended toward Republicans over the past decade.
Loebsack’s announcement came as a surprise to many Iowa Democrats. A crowd of Democratic activists in Des Moines gasped when Amy Klobuchar mentioned Loebsack’s decision late this afternoon.
Because of that, it may be a little bit of time before Democratic candidates (or Republican ones) emerge. Some obvious names that will be mentioned are former State Senator Rita Hart, a farmer who was the party’s lieutenant governor nominee in 2018, and newly-elected State Senator Zach Wahls. And there very well could be multiple candidates out of the Iowa City area jockeying for the nomination.
“I have enjoyed beyond my expectations serving the people of Iowa’s 2nd District for the past 13 years,” Loebsack said in a statement. “Having grown up in poverty, I never would have imagined having the honor of serving as the voice of Iowans in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos put out a statement thanking Loebsack’s service. Her district lies across the river from Loebsack’s, and Bustos’ leadership at the DCCC should ensure the party’s significant help in Midwestern districts like these.
“Congressman Dave Loebsack has been a tremendous partner over the years and I’ve been honored to work with him to strengthen our local economy and get real results for the families we serve along the Mississippi River,” Bustos said. “While I am saddened to learn that he will be leaving Congress at the end of next year, he has earned his retirement and I wish him and his family the best.”
by Pat Rynard