A lot of political pundits in Washington were quick to write off Iowa’s third congressional district as a safe district for Democrats since Congressman Leonard Boswell didn’t have a tough challenger. As quick as the Iowa weather can change, so too can the direction of the state’s political winds. What is surprising isn’t that one quality candidate emerged, but two candidates have joined the race in the last month. Yesterday, State Senator Brad Zaun made it official – he is running for Congress.
Zaun is currently serving his second term in the Iowa State Senate. Before running for the legislature, Zaun served as the Mayor of Urbandale, one of the cities that makes up the Des Moines – West Des Moines metropolitan area. Zaun owned and operated Zaun’s Trustworthy Hardware Store for 18 years.
In a press release sent out by his campaign, Zaun said, “During those eighteen years in business we faced good and bad times. I learned the lessons of business ownership and felt firsthand the burden of taxes and regulation. I struggled just like thousands of Iowans are today, but ultimately we made it through the rough patches.” Once elected to the legislature, Zaun sold his hardware store on Douglas Avenue and took a job with Realty Marketing Group, a subsidiary of R&R Realty Group.
Zaun’s strongest attribute as a candidate is his outgoing personality and his ability to communicate to regular Iowans. Just as you would expect from the guy at the hardware store, Zaun is a straight shooter as you can tell in the video from yesterday’s press conference. In a day and age where politicians seem too polished and unapproachable, Zaun is none of that.
“We need a Congressman who won’t say one thing and then vote another. We need a Congressman who will say no to unbalanced budgets, no to runaway spending, no to tax increases, and no to irresponsible ‘quick fix’ bailouts. I’ll take the same principles of fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, and lower taxes that I’ve lived by as small business owner, mayor and state senator to Washington,” Zaun said.
The Republican primary in the 3rd congressional district is going to be hotly contested. Dave Funk announced his candidacy last summer and has made the rounds to numerous events across the district. Funk, who is the President of the Iowa Chapter of Safari Club International, is a staunch supporter of our Second Amendment Rights. Another candidate, Jim Gibbons, is a three-time All-American wrestler at Iowa State, who also won a national team championship while coaching the squad. Gibbons is a newcomer to politics, but has numerous connections from his coaching days, which can help him raise money for his campaign. Zaun is the lone candidate who has held political office and the only candidate in the race who will have to defend his voting record in the primary.
While there is no doubt that Gibbons is a natural competitor due to his background in collegiate athletics, Zaun has never shied away from a tough political fight. In 1997, Zaun defeated 20 year incumbent mayor E.J. Giovanetti in the primary to be Urbandale’s mayor. Giovanetti is currently a Polk County Supervisor. In his 2004 state senate campaign, Zaun proved once again to be an aggressive campaigner when he was able to win his senate seat despite being outspent.
If Zaun has a weakness, it’s that he is not a prolific fundraiser. While some of that may because he didn’t need to raise a substantial amount of money for his re-election campaign, Zaun will have to focus on fundraising if he is going to have a chance to knock off Congressman Boswell. Another drawback he will have to contend with is being stuck in Des Moines during the legislative session, which can stretch into May. While Zaun will be forced to be at the State Capitol, both Funk and Gibbons can be traveling the district in the months before the primary.
Being stuck in at the State Capitol isn’t all bad. There are plenty members of the media to talk to when at the Capitol, and Polk County is the largest county in the district by a hefty margin. Zaun is probably counting on running up a big margin in the parts of Polk County that he represents anyway, but it still allows Funk and Gibbons to work other parts of the district while Zaun is occupied with his legislative duties.
The first hurdle for the Republican candidates running for Congress to overcome is the end-of-year fundraising deadline with the Federal Election Commission. For any of these candidates to get the support of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the RNC, they must first show that their campaigns can raise the type of money it takes to be competitive. With three candidates now running, the race is on to lock in support from the donor community. Those reports must be filed on or before January 31st.
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