King and Braley draw 2010 challengers

I learned from Sioux City Journal columnist Bret Hayworth that a Democrat has already filed Federal Election Commission paperwork to run against Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district:

Mike Denklau has eyed the possibility of running in the strong Republican district since early 2009, and after traveling western Iowa recently he decided to go all-in.

On Oct. 15, Denklau will announce his candidacy 55 weeks out from the election in stops here in Sioux City, Council Bluffs and Des Moines. Denklau will turn 27 next month – he was raised in Blue Grass near Davenport and graduated from the University of Iowa with majors in political science and finance. He worked in New York for two banking firms through June 2009, including Lehman Brothers, until moving to Council Bluffs recently.

Hayworth notes that it’s not clear whether Rob Hubler, King’s 2008 opponent, will run again. Although Democrats cannot realistically hope to defeat King in a district with a partisan voter index of R+9, an energetic challenger may help drive up Democratic turnout across the district. There will be several competitive state legislative races in the counties that make up IA-05.

Meanwhile, Craig Robinson reports at The Iowa Republican that Rod Blum of Dubuque is ready to challenge Representative Bruce Braley in the first Congressional district.

Blum has strong eastern Iowa roots. He graduated from Dubuque Senior High School in 1973, earned a bachelor’s degree from Loras College (Finance) in 1977, and received a Masters in Business Administration from Dubuque University in 1989. In 1989, Blum was one of the initial employees of Dubuque-based Eagle Point Software. In just five years, Eagle Point Software went public on NASDAQ and had 325 employees. In 2000, Digital Canal was created as a result of a leveraged buyout of Eagle Point Software. Digital Canal is a leading provider of home building and structural engineering software. Blum was also named the Iowa Entrepreneur of the Year in 1994.

While Blum has never run for elected office before, he has been making his political views known in eastern Iowa since 2001 as the Dubuque Telegraph Herald’s conservative columnist. Blum’s writings for the Telegraph Herald will be helpful for a couple of reasons. First, having a regular column in the local newspaper helps build credibility and name ID. Secondly, writing a political column means that he has well thought out positions on many of the issues facing our country today, something many first time candidates lack.

He’ll need more than conservative ideology and name ID in the Dubuque area to unseat Braley. Robinson notes that Republican Jim Nussle represented IA-01 before the 2006 election, but Nussle’s position as chairman of a House budget subcommittee helped him hang on in a Democratic-leaning district. That’s different from a Republican challenger trying to swim against the tide in a district with a partisan voting index of D+5. Republicans currently hold only two House disticts with that much of a Democratic lean: Delaware’s at-large seat, which the GOP will lose when Mike Castle runs for U.S. Senate next year, and Louisiana’s second district, which was a fluke in 2008 because of the Democratic incumbent’s apparent corruption.

Braley is a rising star and effective legislator with a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He won re-election with more than 64 percent of the vote in 2008. Even if 2010 turns out to be a Republican year, Braley’s not losing in a district with 35,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

To my knowledge, Republican Tom Latham (IA-04) is Iowa’s only incumbent in Congress with no likely challenger yet. Steve Rathje and probably Mariannette Miller-Meeks will run against Dave Loebsack in IA-02, while Dave Funk and Pat Bertroche are challenging Leonard Boswell in IA-03. I don’t expect either of those districts to be competitive in 2010.

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