April 20, 2014

Christie Vilsack “in it to win” (audio)

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack says she’s “in it to win.” 

Vilsack has formed an exploratory committee and is moving to Ames, the first steps toward running for Iowa’s fourth district congressional seat. It sets up a likely showdown between Vilsack, a Democrat, and Republican Congressman Steve King in the 2012 election.

“Everybody I’ve talked to and all the people who are working with me think it’s a winnable district and I think it’s the most winnable district for me,” Vilsack said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

“I am a small town person and this is a district of small towns flanked by two or three really good-sized Iowa cities and…all things considered, I thought it was the best district and I’m in it to run. I’m in it to win and if I decide to get to get in it, when the time comes after my exploration is done, then I’m going to go for it and I think this is the best place to win.” 

Vilsack issued a written statement this morning, and then spoke by phone with Radio Iowa, saying she’d embark on a “listening tour” of the new fourth congressional district which includes the cities of Sioux City and Spencer in the west, all the way over to Mason City and down to Ames.

“I’m really interested in running for congress to help folks in the fourth district — if I get the chance and if I make that decision — to build economic vitality in Iowa’s rural communities and cities because that’s where I’ve lived most of my life,” Vilsack told Radio Iowa. “And I want to go out and find out where the middle class went and help bring it back.”

Vilsack grew up in Mount Pleasant, went to college where she met her husband, Tom Vilsack, and the two settled in her hometown after they married. Tom Vilsack served as the town’s mayor, as a state senator and then as Iowa’s governor from January, 1999 through January of 2007.  He is currently the U.S. Ag Secretary and earlier this week he told a group of legislators a Christie Vilsack versus Steve King race would be a “holy war.” 

“Well, I think my husband two days ago wasn’t the spouse of a potential candidate and I don’t think he’s got the spouse thing down quite yet,” she told Radio Iowa. “But today he is and I think he’ll be able to stand next to me and be supportive.” 

Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, weighed in on Vilsack’s candidacy Tuesday, saying she would have been a “pretty formidable candidate” in her native southeast Iowa, but Branstad said Vilsack would be a “fish out of water” in northwest Iowa’s fourth district.

“I could have run in any of Iowa’s districts because I feel like all Iowa is my home,” Vilsack said this morning.  “But, you know, I was in Emmetsburg in the parade at St. Patrick’s Day, right behind (Governor Branstad) and I’ve been in Crawford County — I’ve been traveling all over that district for the last 12 or 14 years and they’re my people and I feel very comfortable with them and I feel like it’s the best district for me as I reviewed it.” 

Christie Vilsack chats with Iowa State Fairgoers. (file photo)

Vilsack and her husband have been living in Des Moines and if they had stayed put, she would have had to run against Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell of Des Moines. 

Had she moved back to Mount Pleasant, Vilsack would have faced Congressman Dave Loebsack in a Democratic primary.

“I really used quite a process and spent a long time trying to decide, really, what’s best for me and my family, what district fits me best and what’s best for my party,” Vilsack said. “…I wanted to run where I had the best chance of winning and I think I have the best chance of winning in the new fourth.” 

During her interview this morning, Vilsack did not mention likely rival Steve King once.  King, a popular figure in the Tea Party movement, just won his fifth term in congress last fall. King has announced he intends to seek a sixth term in 2012.