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December 15th, 2009

Third District Congressional Primary Gets Crowded

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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third cd candidatesTwo years ago, Iowa Republicans struggled to find one candidate to challenge Congressman Leonard Boswell in the general election despite the fact that Boswell faced a primary challenge of his own. Now, as many as five candidates are vying for the Republican nomination in Iowa’s third congressional district.

The latest candidate to emerge is Mark Rees. Rees, a retired architect, looks to be the moderate candidate in the Republican primary.

Rees told the Des Moines Register, “It’s not that I support what is and has been happening in Washington because I don’t any more than my fellow candidates, but it serves no legitimate purpose to craft politically motivated, emotionally driven statements laced with selected statistics promoting and promising unrealistic, unachievable results.

The Des Moines Register also reported that Rees supports some sort of cap on carbon emissions and civil unions for same-sex couples.

The addition of Rees to the Republican field of candidates brings the number of candidates who have filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to four. Rees joins Dave Funk, Jim Gibbons, and Brad Zaun as announced candidates, and Pat Bertroche has campaigned but not filed with the FEC.

The robust field of candidates provides Republicans in the third district with a lot of choices when it comes time to vote in the primary next June. Dave Funk was the first candidate to enter the race in August. Funk is a retired airline pilot who has been involved in a number of Republican campaigns. He recently served as a co-chair of Iowa Sportsmen for McCain. Funk is also the President of the Iowa Chapter of Safari Club International.

Jim Gibbons was the next candidate to enter the race. Gibbons is best known for his years as the head wrestling coach at Iowa State University. In 1987, Gibbons led Iowa State to a national championship. As a wrestler at Iowa State, Gibbons was a three-time All-American and NCAA champion. Before dedicating all of his time to his congressional campaign, Gibbons served as the Vice President of Investments with Wells Fargo Advisors. Gibbons offers Republican voters a fresh conservative face who is also well known outside of the typical Republican circles.

Shortly following Gibbons’ announcement, State Senator Brad Zaun made it known that he too would be a candidate. Zaun, who’s held elected office since 1997, is the traditional candidate in the race. Zaun’s senate district covers Urbandale and parts of Des Moines. Zaun is well liked and known as a tenacious campaigner. Of all the candidates in the race, only Zaun’s name has appeared on a ballot before. In addition to being a State Senator, Zaun works in the commercial real estate business.

With so many candidates in the race, there is a chance that none of the candidates will reach the 35% threshold to win the Republican nomination outright. With all five candidates hailing from Polk County, the chance that a special nominating convention will be needed to determine the nominee is more likely. The last time a Republican was elected to Congress was in 2002 in Iowa’s fifth district. That race had a crowded primary field too, which ultimately was settled at convention. Congressman Steve King won on the third ballot. King also had the highest percentage of the vote in the primary.

The crowded field of candidates will also put a premium on fundraising. With the current state of the Iowa economy, raising money could be difficult for any candidate, let alone unknown candidates with little or no history of Republican involvement. To win the primary, candidates will have to raise enough money to run radio and TV ads across the district.

The Des Moines media market isn’t cheap. Complicating matters for these congressional candidates is the amount of other campaign ads that will fill the airwaves. The primary ballot in the third district will have contested primaries for Governor, Congress, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. Cutting through the clutter will be no easy task. Still, with so many candidates emerging, it’s apparent that Republicans feel like they have a real shot against Congressman Boswell next fall.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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