Rita Hart is the “perfect” fit to represent Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, according to party leaders and those who know her well.
Hart, a farmer, retired teacher and former state senator, knows small towns and big cities. She’s just as comfortable working on the farm as she is shaping policy proposals.
“I’ve known Rita for a long time and I’m really, really happy that she is doing this,” said Rep. Dave Loebsack, who announced in April he would not run for reelection in the 2nd District. “I’m fully supportive of her.”
Loebsack, the seven-term congressman from Iowa City, endorsed Hart on Monday, joining a long list of party leaders in support of her candidacy.
As the national party appears poised to put its resources behind Hart, she faces no serious primary competition, though an Iowa City activist reportedly said last night that he would run.
“I think Rita Hart is a perfect, and I do mean a perfect fit for that district,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Starting Line.
Last time she was on the campaign trail, Hart was alongside gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell in 2018 as his pick for lieutenant governor. She also served in the Iowa Senate from 2013 to 2018, representing District 49 (Clinton County and part of rural Scott County), a seat with a mix of rural and blue-collar communities.
“I know this district, but there’s always so much more to learn,” Hart told Starting Line. “I’m looking forward to having those conversations and really getting to know the people, the geography of the area, the businesses — anything and everything having to do with this district that I know is important to the people who live here.”
In the 2nd District, spanning 24 counties in southeast and eastern Iowa, registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 164,390 to 142,462 as of June 3.
That doesn’t make the district a lock for Hart, however.
Though Loebsack won by good margins every two years, Republican President Donald Trump carried the district in 2016 by 4.1%.
“It’s now a toss-up seat and she’s going to have to get around, and she knows that,” Loebsack said. “She’s looking forward to getting around the district and talking to as many folks as she possibly can and hearing what’s on their minds.”
For the Republicans, Thomas Kedley, the mayor of Osceola, is the only candidate so far in the race.
Being able to drill down on a specific district, rather than a statewide audience, is something Hart said she was looking forward to with her congressional campaign.
“I think the most important thing is to be there, to get out there and to show up and be engaged and then take what I’m hearing from folks and try to do something about it,” she said.
Hart’s campaign announcement video, launched last month, showcased her rural prowess from her family farm in Wheatland.
“It’s always been my focus to really figure out what we can do to help these small towns, help these rural areas to improve their economic development, to work on entrepreneurship, to work on small business development, to concentrate on agricultural issues,” Hart said. “Those are the things I think that can truly make a difference to this congressional district.”
The 2nd District race is one of Iowa Democrats’ most important targets in 2020, in addition to GOP Sen. Joni Ernst’s seat.
“The campaign process is one that I think we have to be as authentic to our voters as possible,” Hart said. “And that’s what I concentrate on.”
Holding on to Loebsack’s seat is an essential part of Democrats’ map to keeping control of the U.S. House.
“Anybody who interacts with her knows she is the real deal,” Bustos said. “So we’re very, very excited about Rita jumping into that race, and think that she will do a great job hanging on to the seat that Dave Loebsack’s had for a number of years now.”
Though the Hubbell-Hart team was unsuccessful in their bid to defeat Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds last year, Hart said she’s taken away valuable lessons from all her campaigns over the years.
“It’s always my hope to learn as much as I can everyday along the campaign trail,” she said, “to find opportunities to listen to as many folks as I can, and truly try to understand where they’re coming from so that I have an opportunity to better serve them if I am lucky enough to get elected.”
by Elizabeth Meyer
Photo from Hart L.G. announcement video