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:
Numerous Iowa politicos are expressing interest in running for the Third Congressional District seat Tom Latham will be vacating in 2015. On the Republican side, they include Secretary of State Matt Schultz, State Senators Brad Zaun, Jake Chapman, Charles Schneider and Jack Whitver, along with State Rep. Chris Hagenow, have all expressed interesting in running. I’m sure there are others who are considering it.
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:
State Senator Matt McCoy — a Democrat from Des Moines — is among them.
“I’ve always said if this seat becomes open, I would be interested in running,” McCoy says.
In the past, however, Congressman Boswell has stood in the way, moving from Davis City to Des Moines in 2002 so he wouldn’t have to run against another incumbent congressman.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about for more than 20 years,” McCoy says, “and I would certainly give it serious consideration and will be giving it consideration over the Christmas holiday.”
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:
“I’m thinking about it,” she said in a short conversation with reporters at the Capitol.
Petersen offered no timetable for making a decision and gave little indication of what factors would inform her decision on whether to run.
Petersen, 43, a first-term senator who previously served six terms in the Iowa House, is a close friend of Olson’s. Her candidacy would challenge fellow state Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines, who is seen as the front-runner in the race now that Olson has dropped out.
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?
Hatch is no fool. He gets this. He’s an admitted underdog.
But his instincts are right. Position yourself as but a mere vehicle for ideas – and argue that it’s positively Prince Charles British of Branstad to seek a sixth term. Is one man so essential to our state?
Then take another angle. Run with the narrative that Branstad has no intention of serving out his sixth term, that the governor plans to get re-elected, retire after two years, and hand-deliver the governor’s office to his job shadower, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Hatch can take this a step further. Don’t want to run against Branstad? Ghost him. Make Reynolds your opponent – to the extent possible.
Why not? Beats running against a guy who has never been beaten.