Challenging incumbents can be worth the effort

I will write more about the third district primary later this week, but for now I want to say this: challenging Congressman Leonard Boswell was a worthwhile effort.

This race forced Boswell to work a little harder on constituent service. To cite just one example, Windsor Heights is about to get a new zip code, which probably wouldn’t be happening if not for the primary.

More important, this race forced Boswell to move to a better place on several issues of national importance. If not for Ed Fallon, I doubt Boswell would have signed on to a strong global warming bill, and I think he would still be voting for blank checks to fund the war in Iraq.

If not for Fallon, Boswell would in all likelihood not have given this speech during the House debate over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in March:

Just a few weeks before that speech, Boswell had publicly advocated for granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies in the FISA bill.

Will these changes last? Representative Jane Harman (D, CA-36) has a much better voting record since she faced a progressive primary challenger two years ago.

It is too early to say whether Boswell will follow a similar path, or whether he will revert to his earlier voting patterns. I hope that he will think twice about voting with House Republicans on high-profile issues after all of his campaign’s talk about standing up to George Bush and fighting for Democratic values.

I don’t expect any other Democrat to run against Boswell. Although there is a clear opening for someone to run against him from the left (especially if that someone didn’t support Ralph Nader in 2000), most politically ambitious Democrats don’t like to burn bridges with the whole party establishment.

For what it’s worth, a Boswell voter I know, who is much better connected than I am, thinks there may be a Democrat or two who would consider taking on the incumbent in 2010. If the right kind of candidate laid the groundwork for a vigorous challenge early, perhaps Boswell would retire before the next election cycle.

In any event, I am glad that Fallon gave me and 13,000 other third district Democrats a chance to vote for someone who would better represent progressive values in Congress.

  • Don't count Ed out

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Fallon runs for the same seat again.  He’s clearly fully committed to using political office as a means to make change happen.  Someone like Donna Edwards didn’t give up when she lost, and learned from her experience to win the next time around.  I think Ed’s got a good shot at doing the same thing.

    He can’t change the fact that he supported Nader, but he can improve his strategy to get past that.  Also, in 2010, with a Democrat in the White House, I think there’s a fair chance that Nader won’t be as much of a hot button.  I think that he may very well beat Boswell the next time around.

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