Bombshell in IA-03: Tom Latham not seeking re-election

From the day I first saw Iowa's new map of political boundaries in 2011, I had a bad feeling that Republican Tom Latham would be representing me in Congress for most of this decade. I did not see today's news coming: in an e-mail to supporters this afternoon (full text here), the ten-term incumbent announced that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2014. Latham plans to spend more time with his family.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was already targeting Iowa's third Congressional district, and Latham was in the National Republican Congressional Committee's incumbent protection program. As an open seat, the race will be far more competitive than if longtime incumbent Latham were on the ballot. I am curious to see which Republicans jump in this race. I doubt Des Moines-based teacher and business owner Joe Grandanette, who had already announced a primary challenge to Latham, will be the GOP nominee. I assume several state legislators or former legislators will go for it, but probably not State Senator Brad Zaun, who couldn't beat Leonard Boswell in the biggest Republican landslide in decades.

Former State Senator Staci Appel has a head start in the race for the Democratic nomination, with nearly $200,000 cash on hand as of September 30 and the support of several Democratic-aligned interest groups, including EMILY's List. Gabriel De La Cerda is the other declared Democratic candidate in IA-03. With Latham retiring, I wonder if other Democrats will jump in the race. For instance, State Senator Matt McCoy was planning to run for Congress in the third district in 2002 before Representative Boswell decided to move to Des Moines so as not to face Steve King in what was then IA-05.

As of December 1, IA-03 contained 157,456 active registered Democrats, 164,311 Republicans, and 160,205 no-party voters, according to the Iowa Secretary of State's office.

UPDATE: Shortly after news broke of Latham's retirement, Appel sent out a fundraising appeal and tweeted that her team was "thrilled to see our work holding Latham accountable has paid off."

SECOND UPDATE: State Senator Janet Petersen comes to mind as a potential Democratic candidate as well. On the Republican side, I wonder whether some mayors or Waukee City Council Member Isaiah McGee will go for it.

THIRD UPDATE: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds already ruled out running for Congress, but Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is seriously considering it.

I've added Appel's statement on today's news after the jump.

FOURTH UPDATE: Added Schultz's statement after the jump. He served as a Council Bluffs City Council member before running for Iowa secretary of state.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal lives in IA-03 and could run for Congress without risking his state Senate seat, since he's not up for re-election until 2016.

Also added statements from Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and the Iowa Democratic Party below. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action released a statement calling on Latham to help move immigration reform forward, now that he "has nothing to lose."

Have to agree with John Deeth: "On the GOP side I expect a clown car and maybe even another convention." State Senators Brad Zaun and Jack Whitver are both thinking about it.

FIFTH UPDATE: Added statement from Gabriel De La Cerda, who was the first Democrat to declare in IA-03 earlier this year.


Staci Appel, candidate for Congress in Iowa's Third District, released the following statement after Congressman Tom Latham's retirement announcement today:

"I want to congratulate Congressman Latham on his long record of public service for Iowa," said Appel. "Regardless of who the Republicans nominate, I intend to spend my time in the next year having a conversation with Iowans about my plan to raise the minimum wage and my support for creating jobs by getting the Farm Bill passed. That's why I will win in November."

About Staci: Born and raised in Iowa, married for 17 years, mother to six kids and a former financial consultant, Staci Appel calls rural Ackworth, Iowa home. Staci took her deep Iowa roots, and her equally deep commitment to Iowa families to the State Senate in 2006 where she fought for Iowa's backbone - middle-class families, farmers and small-business owners. During Staci's time in the Iowa Senate, legislators took notice of her steadfast commitment to the people she served. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said, "I have never seen a freshman legislator come down to the capital and work as hard as Staci Appel." That work included leadership on legislation like Iowa's statewide smoking ban, pre-school for every 4 year old and championing the bill making Iowa the first state in the nation to require equal pay for equal work.

Statement from Matt Schultz:

"I have represented part of the district as a city councilman and now as Iowa's Secretary of State," Schultz said in a statement. "I am seriously considering running for Congress however that's a decision I will make in the next couple weeks.  Now is a time to thank Congressman Latham for his service. I want to thank him for everything he has done for the state of Iowa."

Statement from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01), emphasis in original:

Braley Statement on Tom Latham Retirement Announcement

Washington, D.C. - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement today after Rep. Tom Latham (IA-04) announced he will retire from the US House at the end of his term in 2014:

"Tom Latham has served Iowa with dedication and humility for nearly 20 years, and I was as surprised as anyone to hear his announcement today. Tom welcomed me to Congress in 2007 and was kind enough to invite me and Dave Loebsack onto his weekly TV show to introduce us to Iowans. His generosity reminded me how lucky we are to represent the people of Iowa.

"Tom's passion for the state we all love will be greatly missed in Congress. I'll be forever grateful for his wisdom and friendship as we've worked together to stand up for Iowa.

"Carolyn and I wish Tom, Kathy, and their family the best as they begin the next chapter of their lives."

Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02):

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after Rep. Tom Latham (IA-04) announced that he will be retiring from the House of Representatives at the end of 2014.  Loebsack has served with Latham since 2007.

"The people of Iowa are losing a determined, hard-working advocate in Tom Latham. I have always enjoyed working with Tom to advance our state's priorities and to ensure our residents have the best representation in Washington. I join with my colleagues both here in Iowa and Washington in wishing Tom and his family all the best."

Statement from the Iowa Democratic Party:

Des Moines - Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan released the following statement today on Tom Latham's announcement to not seek reelection in 2014:

"We thank Tom Latham for his service in representing the people of Iowa in Congress.  We are excited to have an open seat in the third district, and look forward to a strong general election season.  Tom Latham is putting his own competitive district into play because the Republican agenda in the House is not working: failing to pass a farm bill, promoting a government shutdown, and voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act almost 50 times.  Iowans are ready to elect a Democrat in the third district, as Democrats look to take back the House of Representatives in 2014."

Statement from Iowa CCI Action:

CCI Action Fund members Urge Latham to Move on Immigration Following his Announcement

CCI Action Fund's Statement on Rep. Tom Latham's Retirement Announcement

Des Moines, Iowa-Following Rep. Latham's announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2014, CCI Action Fund members call on him to move forward in passing a comprehensive solution to this country's broken immigration system.

"The congressman has nothing to lose. It's time for him to step up to the plate, do the right thing and pass immigration reform," said CCI Action Fund member Constantino Morales.

While CCI Action Fund members have known for years that Representative Latham is out of touch with Iowa values, hundreds of members urged Rep. Latham to support fair immigration reform through office visits, face-to-face meetings, town halls, rallies, postcards and calls this year.

Yesterday, CCI Action Fund members joined over 30 community members at a weekly prayer vigil at the congressman's office to continue demonstrating the need for immigration reform and share stories. Despite the community's outcry, Latham has refused to sign onto the comprehensive House immigration bill H.R. 15.

With holiday celebrations coming up, hundreds in Iowa will not be able to rejoice with their loved ones as deportations continue to tear families apart. Communities across the country including our communities in Iowa have called on Republican leadership to stop blocking immigration reform; yet Republican leaders in Congress continue to tarnish the GOP's reputation by refusing to bring up a vote on immigration reform.

"Latham has the choice to do the right thing and leave a positive legacy behind by passing H.R. 15. The time is now to bring 11 million hopeful Americans out of the shadows," Morales said.

Statement from IA-03 GOP candidate Joe Grandanette:

"This is an early win for the process. This is why we have primaries, so that we may hold our elected officials accountable. The most common question posed to me in the last few weeks was 'do you think you can win.' It hasn't been about me winning an election. My campaign has been about having the debate that needs to happen within the GOP when it comes to principles and respecting the process. I will win this race after I win that debate."

Statement from IA-03 Democratic candidate Gabriel De La Cerda:


"Tom Latham has spent nearly 20 years in the halls of Congress." De La Cerda said. "For his service to the country and the people of Iowa, I wish him happiness and peace in his retirement. As we move forward into Iowa's new political landscape, I will work hard to be the voice of all Iowans, demonstrating that Government can work for every American. I will give the voters of Iowa the opportunity to send someone to D.C. who will change the tone in Washington and get the people's work done."

  • Wow!

    And now a couple seats in the Iowa House and Senate may come open...(:  

  • Boehner

    My guess is that Boehner is not going to be the leader again and he carried water AND CASH for Latham. Without his smoking buddy Boehner, I think Latham decided that he doesn't want to work that hard to run.  It will be interesting to watch the candidates come out of the wood work for this seat.

    • interesting theory

      Plausible. But as far as I can tell, the House Republicans who are done with Boehner can't agree on a replacement as speaker, so I wouldn't be too surprised to see Boehner last through next year.

      Latham seemed to enjoy serving in Congress, so I am skeptical that he spontaneously decided he'd rather spend more time with family.  

  • other candidates in the race

    Matt McCoy and Janet Peterson both would make sense for this seat, each for different reasons.  Matt is an excellent fundraiser and has a network of national contacts which would help him raise the money needed in a Congressional race.  The biggest challenge for state house candidates who seek a congressional seat is translating the money work because without an extensive network it's hard to raise the needed money with the FEC limits.  I'm less knowledgeable of Janet Peterson's connections, but think she would also be an excellent, credible candidate.  This makes 2014 very interesting.  

  • republican candidate possiblities

    total guesses here:

    Peter Cownie, Matt Whitaker...the Washington Post story mentioned Steve Gaer who is the West Des Moines mayor; Libby Jacobs; Mary Kramer's son; AJ Spiker; Latham's daughter?

  • Jack Whitver

    Would be one of the few GOP candidates that could appeal to both tea party and establishment crowd.  Has Lamberti as a mentor.  Only drawback could be he is up in 2014 for state senate.  I'd be surprised if he passed on the race.

    • would be risky

      for Whitver to run in IA-03, especially in a crowded GOP primary. He could end up with nothing. Running for re-election to the Iowa Senate is a safe bet for him.

  • GOP 03

    Jeff Ballenger, Council Bluffs.  Primary opponent against Steve King back in the day.

    Now that Janet Petersen is free of Tyler Olson, what about her for Gov?

  • Wow is Right

    My jaw literally dropped when I saw this today.  Let's be honest he could have been in this seat til 2022 if he wanted(when it will shrink in around Des Moines from population growth and redistricting).  

    He must not have told anyone because everyone seems genuinely surprisedby this.  This could really scramble a lot of things.  Lots of ambitious DSM politicians.  One or two Repubs could also switch from the Senate race.  I think it will end up being crowded on both sides.

    • I think more crowded on the GOP side

      for sure. I would not be surprised to see half a dozen candidates file for the seat. A lot of Polk County Democrats will be making a lot of phone calls over the next few days, but I don't think more than one or two will get into the primary.

      • Agreed

        By crowded, I meant more than one on the Dem side lol. Which would actually be nice for a change.  There are really only a couple Dems that would be a serious threat to Appel anyway (see below)

    • Possibilities

      Democrat Possibilities (other than Appel obviously)

      Janet Petersen (middle of term)

      Matt McCoy (Has run before, which is a pretty good predictor)

      Mike Gronstal (Don't think so and hope not for the Senate's sake, but he could run without resigning)

      Culver? (Wouldn't be surprised, but hope not if we want to win)

      Republican Possibilities

      SOS Schultz (Obviously ambitious, connections on both ends of district.... might be a good way to get rid of him)

      Brad Zaun (See McCoy's explanation)

      Jack Whitver (Told the Register he is thinking about it)

      Any Number of ambitious State Reps

      Senate Candidates (They have raised significant amounts of transferable money)One or more of Jacobs, Whitaker, Young and Ernst may see this as an easier path to Congress than a crowded Senate primary and a defacto incumbent in the General

      Exciting stuff.  It will be fun to watch/participate in!!

  • Another name

    Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican tweets that state Rep Rob Taylor WDM is interested. Had not heard that name before.  

    • he's so new

      just elected to the Iowa House for the first time in 2012, and no previous political experience.

      Rob is the sales director for a locally owned petroleum distributor in central Iowa. He also serves as a consultant and trainer for the automotive and agricultural industry. He is a diesel and bio-fuel specialist with experience in agricultural equipment and municipal transportation. Rob serves as an adjunct instructor at DMACC and William Penn University.

      Rob was born and raised in Des Moines and currently resides in West Des Moines with his wife, Dr. Christi Taylor and their four children.  Graduated Lincoln High School. A.A. from Des Moines Area Community College. B.S. from Upper Iowa University. Master in Business Leadership from William Penn University.

      Hard to believe he could win a GOP primary in IA-03, but stranger things have happened.

  • Musings of an avg Dem in a conundrum

    Been lukewarm on Staci, BUT I will give her major props for stepping up when it appeared Latham would be her opponent and she would be in an uphill battle against a tough opponent. Therefore, I would tend to support her rather than another Dem candidate who might decide to run now. She's put in the time, worked hard and earned my support. Others might decide a different Dem would have a better chance in the general and will support that candidate in the primary. That's 100% fine with me, but I think I'm going with SA because she took her shot early.


    • if Janet Petersen runs

      I would definitely support her. Otherwise I may be undecided until shortly before the primary.

  • Janet Petersen

    is considering running for governor:


    this makes far more sense. She was always going to be Tyler Olson's running mate and is already close to many of his biggest supporters and donors. And it would be awkward at best for her to challenge Staci Appel especially when Emily's List is already active there.

  • This just in...

    rumor d'hour: Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa (R) Council Bluffs considering 03.  

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