Government

Loebsack's retirement leaves 2nd District race wide open

Political prognosticator now calls the seat a 'toss-up'

Chris Peters, a surgeon from Coralville, speaks May 21, 2016, at the Iowa State Republican Convention in Des Moines. He ran against U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in 2016 and 2018. Peters, who is vacationing in Italy, reacted Friday on social media to the news of Loebsack’s retirement but left open the question of whether he’d run for the seat again. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Chris Peters, a surgeon from Coralville, speaks May 21, 2016, at the Iowa State Republican Convention in Des Moines. He ran against U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in 2016 and 2018. Peters, who is vacationing in Italy, reacted Friday on social media to the news of Loebsack’s retirement but left open the question of whether he’d run for the seat again. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Dave Loebsack’s decision to retire from Congress creates in Eastern Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District an open-seat race that could be more competitive and draw significant interest from potential candidates.

The Democrat was first elected to the seat in 2006 and won re-election six times. But still, the district has something of an independent streak.

It went for Democrat Barack Obama by double digits in 2008 and 2012, but went to Republican President Donald Trump by 4 points in 2016.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the national political forecasting publication Sabato’s Crystal Ball, posted on social media that Loebsack’s retirement changes the 2nd District’s forecast for 2020 from “likely Democratic” to a toss-up.

With Loebsack out, the question is who may run.

The potential Democratic successors include a former candidate for lieutenant governor and a young state senator.

On the Republican side, some of Loebsack’s previous opponents left open the possibility of running again, and they may have company.

Chris Peters, a surgeon from Coralville and a Libertarian-leaning Republican, ran against Loebsack in 2016 and 2018. Peters was not immediately available for comment Friday; he is vacationing in Italy.

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Peters posted his reaction to the news on social media, writing, “I look forward to having more effective leadership and representation for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. As to my immediate future, I plan to enjoy the rest of my vacation in Italy with good friends ... I’ll defer any further discussion for another week or two.”

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who ran against Loebsack in 2008, 2010 and 2014, said Friday she had not yet had time to process the news of Loebsack’s retirement but said she will give another run some consideration.

State Sens. Roby Smith of Davenport and Chris Cournoyer of Le Claire, a freshman, could run without giving up their legislative seats.

And state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton thought about challenging Loebsack in 2018, but passed. He said he’s not sure what he’ll do now.

“I had 350 calls and text messages in the past two hours” including one from his father, who is the Republican Party of Iowa chairman, Kaufmann said.

“I’ll look at it, but I’m in middle of legislative session and my first responsibility is to my House district,” the Cedar County farmer and business owner said.

Another Republican mentioned is Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher.

Among Democrats, freshman state Sen. Zach Wahls of Coralville, who has gained attention for his advocacy for LGBTQ rights, is mentioned as a potential successor.

Former state Sen. Rita Hart, most recently the running mate to unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, also has been mentioned.

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“A lot of people have reached out to me this afternoon and have really encouraged me to run,” Hart said, adding she will give it consideration. “To tackle a competitive race is a real commitment, a personal commitment, and you have to think about what the job entails. You have to ask, ‘Is this right for me — and for my family?’”

Ian Russell, a Davenport lawyer, said Friday afternoon in an email that people have asked him about running for the 2nd District seat.

“Serving my home state in a position of public service where I can have an impact on thousands of my fellow Iowans has always been a dream of mine,” Russell wrote. “However, it’s too soon to know whether this is the right time for a congressional bid. “

He and his wife have two young sons.

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