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March 31st, 2011

Congressional Winners and Losers of First Redistricting Plan

Congressional Winners:

Congressman Bruce Braley: In his 2010 campaign, Bruce Braley barely squeaked out a victory over Republican Ben Lange. Braley lost Scott County, the largest county in the district, to his Republican challenger. In the first redistricting plan proposal issued by the Legislative Services Agency, Braley exchanges Scott and a few other counties for Linn, Marshall, and Poweshiek Counties.  Linn County was one of only nine counties that Chet Culver won in 2010.  A District that includes Poweshiek County would put a smile on Braley’s face since he was born, raised, and owns a lake home there.

Congressman Steve King: Sure King shares a District with fellow Republican Congressman Tom Latham, but it is not a district that would be difficult to hold for Republicans.  While Latham has close ties to leadership and already has a war chest at his disposal, King would be incredibly difficult to beat in a Republican primary.

Christie Vilsack: Iowa’s former first lady wants to run for Congress, and from what I’m told, she doesn’t care where.  Recent rumors involving Vilsack have indicated that she does not want to primary one of Iowa’s three Democrat congressmen.  Some have suggested that she’s even contemplated against running against Steve King.

In this redistricting plan, she wouldn’t have to do anything that drastic.  The proposed 2nd Congressional District is a dream scenario for her as it includes Henry County, where the Vilsacks are from, and other strong Democrat counties like Keokuk, Lee, Jasper, and Johnson.  The district is not unwinnable for a Republican since it does include Scott County, but it’s not going to be easy.

Jeff Ballenger: The Council Bluffs businessman ran for Congress in 2002 against House Speaker Brent Siegrist, Sen. John Redwine, and Sen. Steve King when the 5th Congressional District was created the last time the state was redistricted.  Ballenger lost out in the four-way primary, but has remained interested in running for Congress.  If the district remains as currently drawn, he might jump at the opportunity to run against Congressman Leonard Boswell.

Congressional Losers:

Congressman Dave Loebsack: Under the current plan Loebsack and Braley are put into the same District. While it is easy for Loebsack to move to Johnson County, if Christie Vilsack runs there, that creates a huge headache for him.  Even if Vilsack doesn’t run in the proposed 2nd District, Loebsack is going to struggle to get known and accepted in areas like Scott, Marion, and Mahaska Counties.

Congressman Tom Latham: It’s hard to put a guy like Latham on the losers list because he’s got tremendous name ID, a lot of money, and very close ties to leadership.  If he wasn’t put in a District with Steve King, he would have no problems.  However, none of the advantages he has would help him in a primary against King.  Oddly enough, his closeness to Speaker Boehner would actually hurt him in a primary against King.

Congressman Leonard Boswell: Sure, Boswell has a District all to himself, but the only county that remains from his old District is Polk, which he moved into ten years ago.  Boswell would have to get to know an entirely new area, and while Polk County is an advantage for a Democrat, Dallas County being in the District helps Republicans make up any ground lost in Polk.  Like Loebsack, it will be difficult for Boswell to make inroads in a new territory.  Boswell is not exciting or even easy to understand at times.   Having to campaign in a third new district will be very challenging for the 77 year-old.

Ben Lange: Lange emerged at a strong contender in 2010 in large part because of how well he did in Scott County, which is no longer part of the District he lives in.  Lange could move to Scott County, but the newly configured 2nd District would still prove difficult since it would be an entirely new territory with different media markets.

Statehouse: will also brake down the House and Senate maps.  Those are more difficult.  The map looks to be really bad for the Iowa House.  Where 27 incumbents are put together in just 12 seats.

Just look at some of the scenarios.

House Leader Linda Upmeyer of Garner and Reps. Stew Iverson of Clarion and Henry Reyhons of Garner, all Republicans in one District.  Ouch

Tom Shaw of Laurens and Dave Tjepkes of Gowrie, both Republicans.

Jeremy Taylor, a Republican and Chris Hall, a Democrat, both of Sioux City.

Mark Brandenburg and Mary Ann Hanusa, both of Council Bluffs and both Republicans.

Rich Anderson of Clarinda and Cecil Dolecheck of Mount Ayr, both Republicans.

Annette Sweeney of Alden and Pat Grassley New Hartford, both Republicans. Wow.

Andrew Wenthe, D- Hawkeye and Brian Moore, R-Zwingle.

Mary Mascher of Iowa City and Dave Jacoby of Coralville, both Democrats.

Betty DeBoef of What Cheer and Jarad Klein of Keota, both Republicans.

James Van Englenhoven of Pella and Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa, both Republicans.

Kurt Swaim of  Bloomfield and Curt Hanson of Fairfield, both Democrats.

The Iowa Senate maps are interesting, and not entirely bad for Republicans.   However, there are cases where two Republicans are put in the same district, as well as some other interesting match-ups.

Sen. Bill Dix and Sen. Rob Bacon, both Republican freshmen, are in one district.

Democrat Senate President Jack Kibbie is thrown in with Sen. David Johnson, a Republican.

Republican Senator Pat Ward is in the same District as Democrat Sen. Matt McCoy.  Is this Steve Deace’s dream scenario?

Democrat Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm is in the same District as Republican Sen.  Merlin Bartz.

Republican Sen. Jim Seymour is in the same District at Sen. Nancy Boettger.

I think Republican Sen. Jim Hahn also shares a District with Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, who is also a Republican.

Keep checking back to for more analysis.

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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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