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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.

The races in the first and second districts lean toward incumbent Democrats because of a slight voter registration edge.

Democrat Bruce Braley is facing a rematch with 2010 Republican challenger Ben Lange in the 1st district, and incumbent Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack moved to Iowa City in order to remain in the 2nd district, where he's facing GOP attorney John Archer.

Political advertising has dominated Iowa's airwaves for months, and the constant barrage of rallies, phone calls and door-knocking have many voters awaiting the end of campaign season.

"People are going to be glad when we forget their names and forget where their houses are," said Caroline Koppes, an Obama campaign volunteer who was working Monday at Democratic headquarters in Dubuque.

Yet people are engaged, setting a record for early voting with more than 600,000 absentee or in-person ballots cast by last weekend, and there were lines Monday at some county election offices.

At the Johnson County administration building in Iowa City, Jaime Lang, a 31-year-old factory worker from North Liberty, voted Monday at the encouragement of neighbors. Lang said he backs Obama.

"I just think that he pretty much knows what America needs. I think he's taking the right steps," Lang said. "It's going to take more time to try to make everything right with what Bush left him."

Bryan Dobes, 21, a University of Iowa student from suburban Chicago, said he voted early for Romney so he could observe at a polling place Tuesday with College Republicans. The finance major said unemployment and spending have been too high under Obama.

"He promised a lot of hope and change, and I'm not seeing it," Dobes said.

As one of nine remaining tossup states in the presidential race, Iowa has been lavished with an unusual amount of attention.

Obama planned to wrap up his campaign Monday night in Des Moines, a nod to the state that handed him his first victory in the 2008 presidential caucuses. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan also planned to stop there Monday.

Washington politics aside, it's the legislative races that may result in the biggest changes for Iowa.

Republicans are hoping to win a majority in the state Senate, clearing the way to push an ambitious agenda backed by GOP Gov. Terry Branstad that calls for tax cuts, education changes and social policy moves related to abortion and same-sex marriage.

The gay marriage issue also is reflected in a judicial retention vote for David Wiggins, one of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who joined in a 2009 ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriage.


Associated Press reporter Ryan J. Foley contributed to this report from Iowa City.


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