Iowa’s 3rd U.S. House District is not the Des Moines district represented in Congress by Democrat Neil Young from 1958-94 and then by Republican Greg Ganske from 1994-2002. Following redistricting in ’01, when the Hawkeye State lost one district, that so-called Des Moines district changed dramatically. Polk County (Des Moines) now shares a congressman with 11 other counties, many of them rural. The new 3rd became one of the most competitive in the nation, one that George W. Bush carried by 267 votes in ’04.
Ganske left the House in ’02 to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. Rather than face almost certain defeat in his reapportioned district at the hands of Republican Steve King, Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell moved to Des Moines and has since won two competitive races there.
After 10 years in Congress from two districts and at age 72, Boswell now faces Republican State Sen. Jeff Lamberti in what is surely one of the most hotly contested House races of the year. Boswell (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 30%) is, in Lamberti’s words, “not moderate anymore, but moving to the left. He opposed the federal marriage amendment, is pro-choice and backs raising the minimum wage.” The 43-year-old conservative hopeful is Boswell’s opposite number.
“Inconsistency” is another charge with which Lamberti hammers the incumbent. Noting that Boswell did vote to override Bill Clinton’s veto of estate-tax repeal in 1999, Lamberti quickly points out that “[Boswell] says he favors greater exemptions now. I favor full elimination of the death tax, period.” Where Boswell did vote for the tough border-security measure enacted by the House, Lamberti also notes that “[Boswell] voted against a lot of things that would have discouraged the flood of illegal immigrants such as funding for a larger fence on the border and voted for giving food stamps to illegal immigrants.” In a state in which illegal immigration is a growing major issue (“right behind the War on Terror,” says Lamberti), the GOP nominee is foursquare for hard-line border security and opposes any guest-worker program.
A third-generation Iowan and graduate of Drake University (with undergraduate, master’s and law degrees), Lamberti won his first term in the state house of representatives in 1994, unseating an incumbent. Four years later, he went to the state senate and was a premier legislative operative behind the largest income-tax cut (10% across-the-board) in state history. As Appropriations Committee chairman from 2001-03, Lamberti oversaw balanced budgets with no tax increase—“not easy in recessionary years when you have a Democratic governor,” he recalled.
Performing feats that aren’t easy is something Jeff Lamberti has done before. With help from fellow conservatives, he can do so again this fall—by unseating a Democratic congressman in Iowa’s 3rd District.