Pat Rynard speculated yesterday about four possible GOP challengers to Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s second Congressional district. Republicans spent very little money trying to unseat Loebsack last year but have signaled they plan to contest this race in 2018. House Democrats added Loebsack to their program for vulnerable incumbents.
Rynard didn’t mention Dr. Christopher Peters, who lost in IA-02 last year by less than 8 points despite getting in the race late and being outspent by a considerable margin. I expect Peters to run for Congress again in 2018.
For today, I want to focus on Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff Michael Bousselot, whom Rynard dubbed the “most interesting name to surface so far” as a possible challenger to Loebsack. “Were Branstad to put his political machine in to action for Bousselot […] the young staffer could quickly become the front-runner in a primary race where access to big donors is key,” he noted.
No doubt a lot of Republican money would get behind Bousselot if Branstad gave the word. But I can’t see this guy making a lot of headway against Loebsack.
The University of Iowa is one of the state’s largest employers and a dominant entity in Johnson County, with tens of thousands of students. Think how many voters living in the 24 counties in Loebsack’s district have attended the university or are close to someone who studied or worked there. Bousselot was a top aide to Branstad when the governor proposed and enacted huge budget cuts to the university this year.
Three community colleges are located in IA-02: Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, and Eastern Iowa Community College in Davenport. Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids also draws from some counties in the district. Bousselot was a top aide to Branstad when the governor proposed and enacted huge budget cuts to the community college system.
Republicans will soon enact a horrendous workers’ compensation bill, making it much harder for Iowans to receive fair treatment after suffering a workplace injury (see the fourth section of this post). I’d like to see Bousselot sell himself to blue-collar Trump voters in Ottumwa, Burlington, Keokuk, and other southeast Iowa communities after Branstad signs that bill into law.
Thousands of IA-02 residents on Medicaid may soon lose access to the large network of Mercy hospitals and clinics, because of a payment dispute with one of the private insurance companies now managing care for more than half a million Iowans. Bousselot was a leading policy adviser to Branstad when the governor rushed to privatize Medicaid.
About 180,000 Iowans, including tens of thousands in IA-02, just lost all of their meaningful collective bargaining rights. Those whose wages and benefit packages are about to get worse include teachers, city and county employees, and prison guards at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. Bousselot was chief of staff for Branstad when the governor signed that collective bargaining bill into law.
K-12 school districts will need to make more cuts to staff or programming in the coming year, thanks to Republicans approving the third-smallest public school funding increase since 1973. Bousselot was chief of staff for Branstad when he signed that bill. He was also a policy adviser when the governor vetoed some $56 million in school funding in 2015.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Iowa GOP state party chair Jeff Kaufmann (also on Rynard’s list of possible candidates) has said he wants to recruit a “unique” and “non-establishment” candidate to run against Loebsack. Bousselot is not only the most “establishment” guy you could imagine, he’s helped shape policies that have hurt thousands of people whose support he would need to beat a six-term Congressional incumbent.
Good luck with that.