Olson out, Latham out, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, etc.

This week's dropouts jolt the political landscape and stoke ambitions

Todd Dorman
Published: December 19 2013 | 8:45 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:03 am in
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So I left the office a little early Tuesday for a quick out-of-town trip to celebrate my wife's birthday. Now I'm back. In between, all sorts of political shock waves hit with all of their far-reaching implications and what not.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Iowa's 3rd District U.S. Rep. Tom Latham dropped the bombshell that he won't be running for re-election next year. That leaves a seat that's pretty winnable for both parties wide open, in a state where you can get pretty old waiting for highfalutin' public offices to come open.

Latham was among the first politicians I interviewed as a working journalist when he stopped by the Iowa Falls Times-Citizen as he prepared to run for Congress in 1994. With his family's famous seed-selling last name already posted on half the barns in the district, and a GOP wave hitting, he got to D.C. pretty easily that year.

There's a lot of speculation on why he might be leaving now, including the possibility that his good pal Speaker John Boehner is also eyeing an exit. Many possibilities. Much guessing. But I'd also like someone who has watched Congress lately explain why the hell anyone with half a brain and a shred of dignity would stay.

Or why you would sell your soul and sanity to win a seat in such a club, but odds are many will try.

The Iowa Republican's Craig Robsinson lists the early GOP possibilities:

U.S. Senate candidates state Sen. Joni Ernst and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker say they're not switching races to run in the 3rd. It's the Senate or bust.

On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Staci Appel was already preparing for an uphill challenge to Latham. So good news for her, right? Well, the open seat is now a lot more attractive to other Dems:

Some scribblers thought state Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, would make a fine congressional candidate. But now she's considering a run for governor after state Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, dropped out of the race amid the breakup of his marriage:

Bleeding Heartland panned the idea of Petersen making a gubernatorial run against Gov. Terry "Invincible" Branstad, with his 58 percent approval ratings and mustache of ultimate power. But Petersen told the blog she's not interested in moving her family to D.C.

Terrace Hill, however, would be a short commute.

I very prematurely declared the cessation of all suspense in the govern't race on Tuesday. And, at this moment, I'm sticking by that. But Petersen's candidacy could make things more interesting. At 43, she brings the generational argument against an unprecedented 6th TB term back into play. That's because 43 is such a young and vibrant age, says this 43-year old columnist. Petersen has more legislative seasoning than Olson, and the glass ceiling aspect of her campaign could work in her favor.

I have no idea what sort of statewide candidate she would be, or if her campaign would offer a fresh, compelling agenda. Still, if the Branstad campaign ordered up an opponent, it probably would not be Janet Petersen.

Meanwhile, an opponent Branstad's folks probably feel a lot more comfortable with, state Sen Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, is on the trail. Douglas Burns has a great piece on Hatch's run over at the Carroll Daily Times Herald. Could this underdog bite?

Why not? Beats running against a guy who has never been beaten.


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