Democrats Matt McCoy, Janet Petersen eye 2014 Iowa campaign bids

Latham's announcement triggers scramble for candidates from both parties

Rod Boshart
Published: December 18 2013 | 3:20 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:02 am in
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Iowa U.S. Rep. Tom Latham’s decision not to seek re-election appears to have kick started a political version of musical chairs with the rarity of open races in high-profile offices proliferating in 2014.

State Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said Wednesday that he is considering joining the race for his party’s 3rd congressional district nomination now that the 10-term GOP incumbent plans to retire in January 2015.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said she is considering a gubernatorial bid now that state Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, announced Tuesday that he was ending his 2014 bid due to family considerations. “I’m thinking about it,” she said, “I’m not going to put a time frame on it right now.”

Petersen would join three other Democrats vying for her party’s nomination and an uphill task of defeating Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who is expected to seek an unprecedented sixth, four-year term.

McCoy said he considered a congressional bid in 2002, but dropped out when Democrat Leonard Boswell moved into the reapportioned district.

“I’ve always made it clear that if this was an open seat that I’d probably take a hard look at it,” McCoy said. “I’m going to do some serious conversations with my family and maybe some polling and try to determine what the political landscape looks like and where Iowans are.”

McCoy said one of his first actions in pursuing a congressional bid would be to talk with Boswell, a former incumbent who lost to Latham in 2012 when the two incumbents were thrown into the district stretching from Des Moines to Iowa’s southwest corner due to reapportionment. Latham prevailed in that 2012 campaign.

Two Democrats already have declared bids for the 3rd District seat -- former state Sen. Staci Appel of Warren County and Gabriel De La Cerda, a former union laborer and Des Moines community college student.

McCoy said he believed his role in the Iowa Legislature’s last session as a point person in achieving a bipartisan property and income tax package would be perceived as a model that works by voters fed up with the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.

“I think that’s the kind of profile that people are going to be looking for,” he said.

The last time Polk County saw an open congressional seat was in 1940, so McCoy said he senses “a lot of pent-up demand” by a younger generation of potential leaders who have waited their turn to serve in the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate.

Previously, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced his planned retirement when his current term expires, and U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, is vacating his 1st District seat to run for the U.S. Senate. The developments mean Iowa will be in the unusual position of having two open U.S. House seats and an open U.S. Senate seat contested on the November 2014 general election ballot.

Two of the six Republicans vying for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and state Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, say they plan to continue their bids for the Senate seat Harkin is vacating rather than shift gears and seek to succeed Latham in Congress.

“I am fully committed to winning the Republican nomination for United States Senate, and defeating Democrat Bruce Braley next fall,” Ernst said in a statement. “Iowa deserves a Senator who isn't a cheerleader for Obamacare and will fight to stop runaway government spending.”

GOP State Chairman A.J. Spiker expects a large and lively race for the Republican nomination.

“For Republicans, 2014 could be a once in a lifetime opportunity” with an open seat in a good district for Republicans in a year that should be good for Republicans, Spiker said. “And Democrats will have to defend Obamacare and that’s a millstone around their necks.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee will be in Iowa later this week to start work on holding the 3rd District seat, Spiker added.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, a resident of the 3rd District, said he planned to continue his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and had no interest in switching to a 3rd District congressional candidacy.

Hatch said he was not expecting the Democratic gubernatorial field to expand.

“It is kind of late to raise the money,” he said. “Speculation is it’s the right time to think about it, but you don’t get into this business very quickly. It’s not a snap decision. You have to worry about your family, you have to worry about financing and then on top of that you’ve got a guy who seems difficult to beat.”

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