IA-02's starting to look like a lean Democratic seat

After seven-term Democratic U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack announced plans to retire after his current term, I argued that the open-seat race in Iowa’s second Congressional district looked like a toss-up.

Bobby Schilling made his campaign official on July 8, setting up a likely general election match-up against Rita Hart. Although Democrats should take nothing for granted here, and the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball still rate IA-02 as a toss-up, I’m now considering this a lean Democratic seat for the following reasons.

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Back to the drawing board for Republicans in IA-02

Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley announced on June 22 that he will no longer seek the Republican nomination in Iowa’s second Congressional district. In a statement enclosed in full below, Kedley said after traveling the district in recent weeks, “I realized I wasn’t done yet in Osceola,” and “I feel like I can make the biggest impact at the local and state level.”

Though he was the only declared GOP candidate, Kedley was never likely to become the nominee in IA-02. He lacked name recognition, a base of support in a large county, or a track record with fundraising.

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IA-02: Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne endorse Rita Hart

Former State Senator Rita Hart now has the backing of every Democrat representing Iowa in Congress for her bid to succeed Representative Dave Loebsack in the second district. The campaign announced support this morning from Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03). I enclose below the full statement.

Loebsack endorsed Hart last month, and State Auditor Rob Sand did the same last week. Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge and a number of state lawmakers are among more than six dozen other high-profile supporters of Hart in the 24 counties that comprise IA-02. The current press contact for Hart’s campaign, Zachary Meunier, managed Loebsack’s re-election effort in 2018.

With several other prospective Democratic candidates taking themselves out of contention in recent weeks, Newman Abuissa appears likely to be Hart’s only competitor for the 2020 nomination. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will surely back Hart but probably will spend little on the primary.

The Republican field has not yet settled in IA-02. Although the GOP has vowed to play for this seat, and recent voting patterns suggest it could be competitive, I question whether Republicans will invest heavily in the race. Hart is a good fit for the area and should be able to capitalize on the district’s slight Democratic lean.

The 24 counties in IA-02 contain 164,390 active registered Democrats, 142,462 Republicans, and 184,572 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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IA-02: Ken Croken out, Newman Abuissa in, DCCC loves Rita Hart

Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken announced today that he has decided not to run for Congress in Iowa’s second district and is endorsing Rita Hart in the Democratic primary. In a statement enclosed below, Croken said, “It is critical that Democrats retain this seat and I believe that former Iowa State Senator Hart is uniquely well qualified to do so.” He will host a fundraiser for Hart next month and said it was “critical” for Democrats to donate to counteract the expected flow of “special interest and ‘dark’ money” spending by groups aligned with Republicans.

Hart always looked like a prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination in the district where seven-term Representative Dave Loebsack is retiring.

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IA-02 primary: Hart gaining strength, Croken considering, Russell's out

More than six dozen prominent Democrats endorsed former State Senator Rita Hart’s campaign for U.S. House on May 22. The list enclosed in full below includes activists from each of the 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district. The best-known endorsers are former Iowa Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, and twenty current or former state lawmakers.

Hart was already the clear favorite to win the nomination. She appears increasingly unlikely to face serious competition from the left in the Democratic primary. Iowa City business owner Veronica Tessler ruled out the race earlier this month. Former Bernie Sanders national delegate Daniel Clark, who ran in IA-02 as an independent last year, is now backing Hart. Johnson County progressives on the new list of Hart endorsers include State Senators Joe Bolkcom and Zach Wahls and State Representatives Mary Mascher and Amy Nielsen.

Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken is still considering a Congressional bid, he told Bleeding Heartland in a May 23 telephone interview. Croken said he and his team are collecting information about potential Republican candidates with a view to deciding who would be the best person to keep IA-02 in Democratic hands. He said the long list of Hart endorsers won’t affect his decision, which he will announce sometime after Memorial Day.

Hart’s news release mentioned eleven high-profile Scott County Democrats, including State Representatives Monica Kurth and Phyllis Thede, State Senator Jim Lykam, former Davenport Mayors Bill Gluba and Thom Hart, and former state lawmaker Frank Wood. Croken’s past contributions to some local Republican candidates would also be a problem in a primary race.

Speaking of Democrats in the Quad Cities area, Davenport attorney Ian Russell has ruled out running for Congress next year, he told Bleeding Heartland by phone on May 22. Russell said he talked to Hart about a week ago and “told her she’s going to be a very good candidate for the second district and that I’d support her.”

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