Two years ago, nobody really thought that Congressman Bruce Braley was at risk of losing his eastern Iowa congressional seat. After winning a hard fought campaign in 2006 to gain the seat, Braley faced little opposition in 2008 when David Hartsuch, a state senator from Bettendorf, challenged him.
In 2010, a number of candidates emerged, but none of them where well known and thus where not given any chance of defeating Braley. With a lot of hard work and determination, Ben Lange, a young attorney from Independence, won the Republican nomination. Lange gave Braley all he could handle in the general election. On Election Day, Braley barely edged out Lange by less than two percent of the vote.
Lange is now eager for a rematch with Braley. He officially announced his 2012 campaign at an event in Cedar Rapids last night. Unlike in his 2010 campaign, Lange is better prepared and more seasoned as a candidate this time around. His campaign raised over $122,000 in the last quarter of 2011. To put that in perspective, Lange only raised about $35,000 before his primary in 2010. In an interview with TheIowaRepublican.com, Lange seemed confident and excited about his second campaign for Congress.
Lange said that his phone hasn’t stopped ringing from people who were encouraging him to run. “People are fired up,” Lange said, “They saw what we did in 2010 and want to help us get the job done this time.” His previous campaign provides him with a base of support he didn’t have two years ago. The money he has already raised will also allow him build out a top-notch ground game that he believes is necessary to win the primary and general election.
Lange’s decision to officially launch his campaign in Linn County is no mistake. “I feel Cedar Rapids is a place where we can plant our flag,” Lange said. Two years ago, people didn’t think we could do it Scott County, but we proved them wrong. The people I’ve talked to in Linn County are excited; they feel unshackled from Johnson County,” he added.
In the last two elections, Johnson County gave the Democrat candidates a huge margin that was difficult to overcome. In 2008, Congressman Dave Loebsack beat his Republican opponent by nearly 25,000 votes in Johnson County. In 2010, the race was more competitive, but Loebsack still got a 14,000-vote margin out of the county. Linn and Johnson counties are no longer in the same district, which may make Linn County more competitive for Republican congressional candidates.
Rematch On New Turf
If Lange wins the Republican nomination, he would once again face Braley in a general election. While he would still be running in the 1st Congressional District, the district has been reconfigured following redistricting. The changes are substantial. The old district had only 12 counties. The new district has 20. The old district included Scott County, which Lange carried against Braley. The new district contains Linn County instead, which favors Braley.
A Braley/Lange rematch would be fascinating since they basically split the nine counties that remain from the old district, and nine of the eleven new counties went to the Republican candidate in 2010. The two other counties, Poweshiek and Linn, are Democrat strong holds. If Lange can work the same magic in Linn County that he worked in Scott County two years ago, he will once again prove to be a handful for Braley in the fall.
The newly reconfigured 1st District is also better for Lange in regards to voter registration. The old district had a 39,816-voter registration advantage for Democrats. The new district still has a Democrat advantage, but the advantage dropped to 29,525. Lange lost his last race by only 4,209 votes, so the 10,000 fewer registered Democrats makes this district more competitive.
To win the nomination, Lange will need to defeat Rod Blum in the Republican primary. Blum, a Dubuque businessman and longtime Republican activist, is a much more formidable primary opponent than Lange faced in 2010. Blum had indicated that he was interested in running last cycle, but opted out for unknown reasons. Lange indicated that he believes primaries only make a candidate stronger and said that he looks forward to working hard to win the nomination.
There is also the possibility that another Republican candidate could emerge. With Linn County as the district’s most populated county, a late entrant with strong Linn County ties would not be a surprise since no candidate currently fits that bill. However, Lange spent a lot of time getting to know Linn County activists before launching his campaign, a wise move that could either keep someone else from entering the race or give him an advantage over Blum.
Lange is also not going to be able to sneak up on Braley like he did in 2008. Braley has almost $100,000 more in his campaign account this year than he did at this point in 2010. The new district will also force Braley to campaign more extensively than he did during the last cycle. The new district also includes some very friendly turf for Braley, especially Poweshiek County, where Braley grew up and owns a lake home.
- Lange launches second 1st District challenge to Braley (thegazette.com)
- What the Iowa Congressional Fundraising Reports Mean for 2012 Races (theiowarepublican.com)
- Ben Lange Raises $120k for Congressional Campaign (theiowarepublican.com)
- Rod Blum Raises $71,000 for 1st District Congressional Race (theiowarepublican.com)
- Blum hopes to tap frustration with federal government (thegazette.com)
- Lange has raised $120,000 toward new Braley challenge (thegazette.com)
- Linn County’s new election map is officially OK with the state (thegazette.com)
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