Representative Tom Latham’s surprise retirement announcement last Tuesday was an early Christmas present to some ambitious Republicans (who now have an opportunity to move up) as well as to Democrats (who now have a prayer of winning IA-03).
Here’s a new thread on potential GOP contenders for the vacant seat next year. My thoughts on many possible candidates are after the jump. Appearing on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program, Latham said he does not expect to endorse a candidate in the GOP primary to represent IA-03. He added that he might become a lobbyist or work for a charity after leaving Congress.
It’s likely that the Republican nominee to replace Latham will be a white male. With the sole exception of State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, all of the Republicans who expressed interest when speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs last week are white men. I have not heard any other women’s names mentioned as possible GOP candidates. I contacted Isaiah McGee, an Iowa Department of Education official and Waukee City Council member who is the most prominent African-American Republican in central Iowa. He sought the Republican nomination for the 2012 special election in Iowa Senate district 22 but told me last week that he will not run for Congress next year.
So far, none of the GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate seat have expressed interest in running for IA-03. Matt Whitaker, Joni Ernst, and Mark Jacobs all released statements saying they are committed to the Senate race. Bob Vander Plaats is considering the Senate race but is not interested in IA-03. I have not seen any comment from David Young, but if he drops out of the Senate race I doubt he would have any chance at winning the nomination in IA-03.
Several current elected officials are openly considering the Congressional race: Secretary of State Matt Schultz, State Senators Brad Zaun, Charles Schneider, Jake Chapman, and Jack Whitver, and State Representatives Chris Hagenow, Rob Taylor, and Mary Ann Hanusa. I believe Schultz will seize the chance to run for Congress. I would be surprised if Hagenow, Taylor, or Hanusa entered the primary, because they would have to give up their Iowa House seats to do so. Hagenow recently became House majority whip and is considered a possible future majority leader or speaker. Hanusa may run if no one else from the Council Bluffs area enters the race. (Jeff Ballenger is a possible candidate.)
Whitver is up for re-election to the Iowa Senate in 2014, so he would also have to give up his position in the legislature to enter what may be a crowded primary in IA-03. I think he will back off.
Schneider, Chapman, and Zaun were just elected to four-year terms in 2012, so they could run for Congress without risking their Iowa Senate seats. I expect at least one of them to go for it. Zaun is the best-known, but I doubt Republicans will want to nominate him again after he failed to defeat Leonard Boswell in the historic 2010 GOP landslide.
Former State Senator Jeff Lamberti, who was the GOP nominee in IA-03 in 2006, told the Des Moines Register that he’s not interested. Ditto for State Representative Peter Cownie and West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer.
Several Republicans who have not run for office before are looking at the opportunity in IA-03. They include Republican Party of Iowa Vice Chair David Fischer, a leader of the Ron Paul “Liberty” faction, and Robert Cramer, who was not confirmed to a seat on the Iowa Board of Regents earlier this year. Fischer would have a lot of party activists behind him and may have an edge if no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June primary. (In that event the nomination would be decided at a special convention.) Cramer would have no trouble raising enough money to run for Congress. As Craig Robinson discussed here, Cramer has ties to Governor Terry Branstad as well as to Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization.
David Oman, a former Branstad staffer who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor in 1998, told Jennifer Jacobs that he is considering the IA-03 race. He would be a well-funded candidate, but I think he’s considered way too moderate to win a primary in today’s political context.
Most of the possible Republican contenders live in Polk or Dallas Counties. Since Council Bluffs is the second-largest metro area in the district, I expect at least one Pottawattamie County Republican to enter the race—if not Jeff Ballenger, then perhaps State Representative Hanusa. The other Iowa House Republican from Council Bluffs, Mark Brandenburg, has already said he will retire from the legislature in 2014 in order to run for Pottawattamie county recorder.