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Iowa voters engaged in state, national races

Associated Press Published: November 5, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — At least one Iowa congressman's career will end Tuesday after a campaign that has forced each member of the state's House delegation to work hard for another two-year term in Washington.

Thanks to redistricting and well-funded challengers, no incumbent could cruise to re-election. And in the 3rd Congressional District, either nine-term Republican Rep. Tom Latham or eight-term Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell will definitely be out of a job.

All of Iowa's four congressional races are seen as competitive, and put in front of voters who are also being asked to decide who will control of the state Legislature and whether to retain an Iowa Supreme Court justice who supported gay marriage.

Latham, 64, chose to move into Des Moines-focused 3rd district after Iowa lost one congressional seat due to once-a-decade redrawing of boundaries to reflect population changes noted by the U.S. Census.

Their race has been expensive and poll numbers indicate it's close, though Latham's $3.1 million in fundraising is double the $1.5 million Boswell raised. The district, which stretches from Des Moines to the Missouri River, also has slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats.

"It's been a very spirited contest but we're competitive and we've been able to follow the plan that we laid out," Boswell, 78, said Monday. "We're feeling good and we'll just finish it out and let the folks decide."

Iowa's status as a battleground state in the presidential race between President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney has implications for state races. Latham said he expects to get a boost from a big turnout by highly motivated Republican voters.

"The intensity on the Republican side is like I have never seen it before," he said. "There is a real fear that we're going to lose what's made America great and that's our economic strength."

Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said the Boswell and Latham race was close in the nearly evenly split district, but argued Democratic turnout and Obama's "great field operation" would favor Boswell.

The 4th Congressional District race, which pits a well-known incumbent against Iowa's former first lady, has also attracted plenty of attention.

Republican Rep. Steve King, known for his outspoken conservative views, has cruised in every race since he was first elected in 2002. But the 63-year-old acknowledged he's been challenged by opponent Democrat Christie Vilsack. Vilsack, 62, is married to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was governor for eight years.

Her victory would be historic: She would be Iowa's first woman in Congress.

"I like to tell 10-year-old girls when I meet them as I do every day that if I do this, they won't ever have to think about it as being a barrier and that would mean a lot to me," she said.

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