IA-02: State Senator Mark Chelgren makes campaign against Dave Loebsack official

After dropping some unsubtle hints in recent days, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren confirmed today that he will run for Congress in Iowa’s second district, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register. He will launch the campaign in Iowa City this afternoon on October 6 before appearing at the Scott County Republican Party Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf. Scott County has the largest population and Johnson County (containing Iowa City) the second-largest among the 24 counties in IA-02.

Speaking to the Register, Chelgren said he doesn’t dislike five-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack, but “This is a question of who is better suited to change Washington, D.C. […] you are not going to do it by following party lines and doing what you are told.” In reality, Loebsack has not blindly followed the lead of his fellow House Democrats. The Progressive Punch database of Congressional voting indicates that Loebsack is only the 157th most progressive current member of the House. He has also voted with Republicans rather than with most of his own caucus on more than 30 percent of the “crucial votes” tallied by Progressive Punch since 2007.

A business owner in Ottumwa, Chelgren told the Register he is running to represent the people of southeast Iowa and hopes to bring to Washington his experience creating jobs at the local level. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in July, Chelgren outlined other key themes of his potential Congressional campaign: changing our trade policy, upgrading our infrastructure, fixing a “massively broken” education system, and bringing more long-range planning to the federal government.

Chelgren’s ten-vote victory in a 2010 Iowa Senate race neither party had its eye on still evokes unprintable words from many Democrats. Despite being the most vulnerable GOP Iowa Senate incumbent going into the 2014 election cycle, Chelgren managed to win re-election by 374 votes after calling attention to some unforced errors by the Democratic candidate. So no one should count him out.

That said, IA-02 would be a long-shot prospect for any Republican candidate in 2016. The district leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,325 active registered Democrats, 136,237 Republicans, and 183,235 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential election year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

UPDATE: Added below Chelgren’s press release announcing his candidacy.

Press release from Chelgren’s campaign

Iowa State Senator Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination to challenge United States Congressman Dave Loebsack next November.

“Our political leadership is on a dangerous and destructive path,” Senator Chelgren said. “However, the strength and beauty of our political system is that we do not have to close our eyes and hope for the best. In America, when the politicians chart a course over the nearest cliff, the people can grab the wheel and avert disaster. I am an ordinary citizen, just like you. And I am doing exactly that! I am announcing today I am running to be your next United States congressman.

“In America, the people have power that they seldom see the need to fully exercise. In this election, we can end the insane deficit spending, pursue tax policies that will restore economic growth, and enact legislation that will encourage small businesses to create jobs. We can do all of these things, and it starts with sending folks like Dave Loebsack and the rest of the never-saw-a-spending-bill-I-didn’t-like crowd back to the private sector, where folks work for a living.

“I thank God every day that I was fortunate enough to be born in a place called America. The great fortune of living in America – and in Iowa – are something we should never take for granted. Our freedom, and the vitality it creates, are more far more valuable than we often realize.

“They are also currently endangered. Endangered by career politicians who think they know better how to spend our money. Endangered by well-financed interests who game our political system for their own selfish ends. Endangered by mountains of debt that will take generations to pay down. Most of all, endangered by our own complacency. If we sit idle and watch these things destroy America, we will have only ourselves to blame. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.

“I am not doing nothing. I’m going to win Iowa’s Second District Congressional seat, because the man in that seat is part of the problem, and I’m part of the solution.”

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