IA-03: New Boswell-Vilsack primary speculation thread

It’s been a while since the Bleeding Heartland community discussed a possible 2012 primary between Representative Leonard Boswell and Christie Vilsack. Everywhere I go in Polk County, Democrats are talking about this race, so I thought it’s time for a new thread on the subject.

Last week Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reported that Vilsack “has been meeting with top state labor leaders, party strategists and donors as she gauges support and maps out a potential House campaign.” A bunch of Iowa insiders and Vilsack loyalists told Isenstadt about the former first lady’s strengths as a candidate. She’s good on the stump, has high name recognition and could raise a lot of money quickly. She refused to comment for his article, but Boswell told Isenstadt that he has informed Vilsack “that he had no plans to retire and that he would run again in his Polk County political base.”

Most Polk County Democrats I’ve spoken to expect Vilsack to run against Boswell in the new third Congressional district rather than in the redrawn second district, likely to contain Vilsack’s hometown Mount Pleasant. I would be surprised to see her run against Dave Loebsack in IA-02, but it could happen if the new IA-03 has a strong Republican tilt (say, containing lots of counties to the south and west of Polk but not Democratic-leaning Story, Marshall and Jasper counties). In that case, a primary against Loebsack could be more appealing than a general election against Tom Latham. I don’t have a good sense of the activist base’s commitment to Loebsack in IA-02, so I hope Bleeding Heartland readers who live in the area will weigh in. I believe many activists in IA-03 are ready for a change and would support a new candidate in a primary against Boswell.

Vilsack would be a much tougher opponent for Boswell than Ed Fallon was in 2008. The entire Democratic establishment and most allied groups like organized labor supported Boswell against Fallon. Some Democratic activists thought Fallon was unelectable or refused to consider supporting him because he had endorsed Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign in 2000. In addition, Fallon was unable to match the incumbent in fundraising.

Christie Vilsack has none of Fallon’s baggage and should have no trouble raising enough money to make the race competitive. She may even raise more than Boswell, who had just $65,276 in his campaign account at the end of 2010. (No word on how much Boswell raised at his big campaign fundraiser last month, featuring Senator Tom Harkin.) Although Boswell has a good record on women’s issues, many activists would be excited about making Vilsack the first Iowa woman to go to Congress.

During the 2008 primary, Boswell’s campaign kept Fallon on the defensive, questioning his ethics and slamming his record on ethanol and meth. The Nader trump card was played again and again. Boswell is good at “winning ugly,” as he showed last year against Brad Zaun. But I don’t see how he goes hard negative against Vilsack in a primary. My sense is that would backfire.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Who would have the edge in a Boswell-Vilsack primary? How bad would the IA-03 map have to be to send Vilsack running against Loebsack on more friendly Democratic turf?

UPDATE: On February 3 Boswell announced the hiring of Julie Stauch as his Iowa chief of staff, beginning in March. (Sally Bowzer recently retired from the position.) Stauch is a veteran Iowa political operative and managed Boswell’s 2002 re-election campaign. In 2004, she managed Lois Murphy’s unsuccessful challenge to a Republican Congressional incumbent in Pennsylvania. In 2006, she managed Mazie Hirono’s successful Congressional bid in Hawaii. Most recently, Stauch has been chief public affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

FEBRUARY 4 UPDATE: Senator Harkin seems to be trying to discourage Vilsack:

“I don’t see that happening,” Harkin says. […]

“Look, I have great respect for Christie Vilsack. I’ve known [her] a long time,” Harkin says.  “Since I’m so heaviy into education, here’s someone who has been in education all her life, so I have a lot of respect for her and her abilities. She has a lot of talent and a lot of support in the state of Iowa, but I do not see a primary with her and Congressman Boswell.”

  • Questions?

    Christie Vilsack has none of Fallon’s baggage and should have no trouble raising enough money to make the race competitive

    What IS her baggage? I’m just a bit too young to fully remember all of the Vilsack era. Didn’t she wear weird hats or something? Is Sec. Vilsack’s baggage her baggage? Does she have residency issues (ie Rahm) due to her husbands tenure in DC?

    In my experience, ‘The Boz’ is beloved, but a large majority of the Dems I know are desperate for the next new chapter. Does she alienate too many rural white male voters? And will that be the fault line in the D Primary?

    I some ideas on these questions but want to throw it to the BH Comm for thoughts…

    • she has no residency issues

      She has a house in Des Moines and works for a non-profit based in the city.

      Hats are a plus, and when Vilsack was governor, she used to do events all over the state.  

      • residency

        You don’t even have to live in the district to run, just in the state. I remember a few years back the Natural Law party ran Fairfield residents in all five districts.

        Hats may be a plus but the beret ain’t runnin’ for anything.

        • Hats definitely a plus

          Christie always remembered my wife because she (my wife) is a younger woman who often wears hats. Because of this personal touch and connection, my wife has always thought very highly of Christie. Of course, now being out of state, our support of her wouldn’t really matter.

    • Christie's only baggage

      Her only baggage (as far as I can see) is that she has never held any elected office. None at all, not even as much as school board. (First Lady doesn’t count.)

      As far as I know, that’s it. Tom’s missteps are his own, and their kids are well past the “youthful indiscretions” phase.

      It all comes down to the district. Bozwell has always run as kind of a big acreage, front-porch, gentleman country lawyer type. If the district stays as it is (Des Moines and a big swath of rural Iowa), then I think he has the edge.

      Vilsack, on the other hand, I think plays better as an urban soccer-mom type candidate. If the district becomes a Greater Des Moines district (Polk, Dallas, Story, Warren, etc.) then I think she has the edge.

  • I will vote third party regardless of which conservadem wins

    I hope fallon primaries them to take advantage of them fighting over same conservadem voters.  If he loses in the primary I hope he runs as an independent in general.

  • Loebsack

    seems to remain in good standing with the activists, at least here in the People’s Republic. I’m hearing no Vilsack stuff.

    Main concern I’m hearing is about the map, specifically if Linn and Johnson are split. If the map creates a Black Hawk-Linn district without Johnson (and I don’t see how all THREE stay together) then, well, Johnson County likes professors and Mt. Vernon is practically us anyway…

    So my bet is Christy, if she runs, runs out of Des Moines, but she wants the field cleared.

    It’s all going to come down to where the map puts Dallas County.

    • agree, Loebsack would move to Johnson

      if the map puts Linn in Braley’s district.

    • Loebsack seems safe

      He picked up enormous credibility by knocking off Leach when so many others had failed.  And I agree that being a professor really does carry some weight in Johnson county.  

  • Excellent analysis all around

    I assume Bruce Braley would defeat Loebsack simply because of his higher profile and he tends to be a more effective speaker in my view.  I don’t see them running against each other though, I’m not even convinced they would run against each other even if the map dictated it.

    I will refrain from getting in the Boswell-Fallon fight, if Ed Fallon could convince me that he would be more small business friendly than I truly believe he is, then I will be glad if he proves me wrong in the future.  

  • Christie Vilsack

    Last I checked, it is a free country and Vilsack can run if she chooses to do so. She can be expected to run for something at some point in time.

    IMHO no big deal until the districts are re-mapped.

  • tough choice

    I would have a very hard time deciding who to support.  This race would be all about personal relationships each has with the new district.  Christie was out a lot as First Lady and built many relationships with people one on one.  Boswell goes to everything.  You can’t have an event in the district without Congressman Boswell being in attendance or someone from his staff being there.  People respect that and like that their Congressman goes to things.  Wish a primary like this wouldn’t happen and we could knock out Latham and King depending upon the district shape and have Vilsack, Boswell, Loebsack, and Braley as our members.  

  • Vilsack

    Oooo, if Christie Vilsack runs for anything I will uproot myself from the Quad Cities and hightail it to Des Moines or wherever she’ll be. I find her extremely likable and someone with a grip on the issues I care about. She’s a very nice person. I wish she’d come out here and run. I am curious about this redistricting however, I guess we’ll see where everyone stands when we see the new map.  

  • I wish she would take on Latham. nt

    • the Democratic nominee in IA-03

      will probably face Latham. I am pretty sure he doesn’t want to run a primary against Steve King in the new IA-04.

  • Ok, this is getting out of hand...

    As the resident anarchist, I give the following admonition.

    Don’t even speculate about voting for them.  It only encourages them.

    • Christie v Boz

      On Friday’s taping of Iowa Press on IPTV, Sen Harkin says nice things about Christie, but doesn’t think a primary race is a good thing.  He dispatched the notion with one sentence.  Watch this weekend.   Of course, he appeared at Leonard’s fundraiser. He also talked about his own future – saying four years is a long time til the next election but that he “likes his job.”

  • UPDATE: POLITICO rates this race #3

    The #3 Hottest Race so far? Politico thinks so:

    3. Iowa’s 3rd District: Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell could find his Des Moines-area district merged with that of neighboring GOP Rep. Tom Latham – a prospect that would set up a clash between two veteran Iowa pols. But the 77-year-old Boswell is wasting no time preparing for the potential battle ahead, holding a January fundraiser headlined by Sen. Tom Harkin and installing his former campaign manager, Julie Stauch, as his chief of staff. Latham begins the 2012 cycle flush with nearly $600,000 and is likely to have the full backing of his longtime friend and ally, House Speaker John Boehner. Boswell’s path to reelection might be complicated by a primary fight with former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack.

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/s…  

    The way they frame it, it has all the makings for drama. Sadly, I think she will wait her turn. Did anyone see Boswell’s Campaign-style Facebook Appeal today? His former campaign manager is now his COS, looks like he is already off and running… Meanwhile Latham lurks behind the scenes as always…

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