The other big race in Iowa

CLIVE, Iowa—At Valley High School, as local residents filed in to participate in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses Tuesday night, quite a few of them dropped by a table near the entrance to sign nominating petition to place Iowa’s 4th District Rep. Tom Latham on the ballot to seek re-election in the Des Moines-area 3rd District this fall.  In setting the state for what many are already calling “the other big race” in the Hawkeye State this year:  A showdown between nine-termer Latham (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 83.99%) and eight-term Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell (lifetime ACU rating: 23%).

The clash between the two incumbents for one House seat from the Hawkeye State is one of several such legacies of the congressional redistricting process that follows the census every ten years.  In Iowa, the process turned out unfavorably for Republicans, putting Latham’s former 4th District into the present 5th District of fellow conservative GOP Rep. Steve King.

Rather than oppose King, Latham announced plans to move from his home in rural Ames to the Des Moines area to oppose Democrat Boswell.

“And we’re sure Tom will hear an earful about opportunism and carpet-bagging,” Clive City Councilman Ted Weaver told HUMAN EVENTS, as he collected signatures for Latham’s petitions at the high school, “But as far as a lot of us are concerned, we are glad to have someone with a conservative voting record to oppose our congressman, who votes with [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi 98% of the time.”

Although Boswell has styled himself as a “blue dog Democrat,” Latham enthusiasts will try to make a case that, as Weaver put it, “he’s anything but that.”  The focus of the Latham effort is expected to be on the Democratic lawmaker’s votes for ObamaCare and for two stimulus packages favored by the Obama White House.

In contrast, Latham opposed both measures and has long been considered a deficit hawk and limited government advocate.  Weaver and other backers did note that both Latham and Boswell voted for the TARP package that bailed out endangered Wall Street firms that is so despised by the tea party movements.  But as Latham’s fellow conservative GOPer Weaver said, “While it isn’t exactly popular with conservatives, the TARP vote is something a lot of us understand because, like George W. Bush [who urged its enactment], we were afraid of what might have happened to the economy if the [firms] weren’t rescued.  Quite honestly, I probably would have voted for it if I had been in Congress.”

Aside from TARP, Reps. Latham and Boswell disagree on just about everything, Their contest offers voters in Iowa’s 4th District a rare choice between candidates who have records of voting on the same issues.  And the contest is one sure to be watched by pundits and pols in and outside of Iowa.