There has been a sea-change in Iowa’s congressional delegation. Buoyed by a national tide for Democrats, three of Iowa’s five congressional races have been claimed by Democrats.
Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican from Iowa City, was ousted by Democratic challenger Dave Loebsack. “People really want real change,” Loebsack told Radio Iowa early this morning after Congressman Leach had called him to concede. “Whether it’s the war in Iraq or whether it’s health care or jobs issues or education — whatever the case may be, they were ready for a change.”
Loebsack, a Cornell College political science professor, embarked on what was then considered a long-shot bid against Leach 14 months ago. “It’s a huge task to unseat a 30-year incumbent,” Loebsack told Radio Iowa. “I never, ever predicted that I would win, but I always said that I knew that I could win.”
Loebsack won narrowly, by a margin of 5,711 votes.
One of the nation’s most-closely-watched races was in Iowa’s first congressional district, an open seat since 16-year incumbent Jim Nussle elected to run for governor this year. Democrat Bruce Braley, a Waterloo lawyer, cruised to victory over Republican businessman Mike Whalen by a 12 percentage point margin. Braley said he’ll go to Washington to “pass positive legislation to change the direction of this country.”
Braley told reporters last night in Waterloo that he’s “overwhelmed” by the victory. “We put so much effort into getting here to the finish line that when it all happened it happened so rapidly it just sort of took the wind right out of me,” Braley said. “Now we get down to the hard work of going out and changing the direction of this country.”
The only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegate had been Leonard Boswell of Des Moines who won re-election Tuesday in a 52-to-46-percent victory over his Republican rival. Boswell, who is 72, described 2006 as a “pretty hard” campaign year. “My appreciation and respect for the people of Iowa has just gone up another notch,” Boswell told supporters gathered at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. “We think it’s time for America…and Iowa and us here to say let’s get a handle on the way campaigns are run and let’s get back to the truth,” Boswell said.
Most of the campaign ads in the third district race were negative, both from Boswell and his Republican challenger, Jeff Lamberti. As he exited the stage, Lamberti called the campaign an “incredible” experience. “I’ve got to tell you it’s one of these memories that you’ll keep for the rest of your life,” Lamberti said. “Thousands of you working for me ty try to get me elected and giving of your time, your money and your efforts and it’s an incredible, rewarding experience to run for congress in the state of Iowa where people are so good and so kind.”
Lamberti told Republicans not to abandon hope. “And I want to encourage you to remain (true) to your principles and keep working,” Lamberti said. “There’ll be other elections.”
Republican Congressmen Tom Latham in the fourth district and Steve King in the fifth were re-elected. Neither have ever served in the minority in congress.