42-year Iowa legislator Horn faces unlikely primary challenger

Lefebure last ran for legislative seat two years ago -- as a Republican

Bob Hearst and Judy Stalkfleet of Cedar Rapids meet with Sen. Wally Horn (D) during an AARP Iowa Lobby Day at the Iowa S
Bob Hearst and Judy Stalkfleet of Cedar Rapids meet with Sen. Wally Horn (D) during an AARP Iowa Lobby Day at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines in 2007.

The dean of the Iowa Legislature is making one last run from his safe Democratic west-side Cedar Rapids Senate District.

There appears to be just one hurdle for 42-year legislator Sen. Wally Horn – a primary challenge. The last time Horn had a primary opponent was 32 years ago – a year after his current primary challenger was born.

If that’s not enough to make the race interesting, Horn’s challenger, Lance Lefebure, ran in a west-side House district that makes up half of Senate 35 two years ago – as a Republican. He lost to incumbent Democrat Rep. Todd Taylor, who was first elected in 1995.

“I see myself as being fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” Lefebure said Friday. “I believe it is a rather popular stand here in this district based on conversations I’ve had with people.”

Horn isn’t sure how the party switch is going to play in the heavily Democratic district.

“It’s dangerous to elect someone from the middle of the road or to the right of center” who might not agree with the liberal positions of the Senate Democratic caucus, Horn said.

“I don’t know how quickly you can go from being a Republican to standing with the Democratic caucus,” Horn said at the capitol Wednesday.

Voters shouldn’t be concerned about where he’ll stand, Lefebure said. “I’m not.”

Standing with the caucus is a good thing, “but one of the core principles of democracy is that we represent the people.”

He’s received a warm welcome from Senate 35 voters as he’s door-knocked, Lefebure, 32, said.

As far as the campaign, Horn said he’ll “do the regular plan” with signs, baseball cards and a get-out-the-vote effort.

He’s hoping that primary races for the Linn County Board and the Iowa U.S. House 1st District race will help turn out “regular Democrats” who have a history of voting for him. Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1 in Senate 35, which covers most of west-side Cedar Rapids, extending south and west to the Linn County line. There are 16,931 Democrats to 9,171 Republicans and 16,854 no party voters.

Many of Horn’s constituents know him from his 30 years as a teacher in Cedar Rapids.

“I can’t go more than a block without someone saying, ‘You had my kid in school,’” said Horn, 80.

Lefebure is aware of voters’ familiarity with Horn. He’s also found they’re “warm to the idea of new blood.”

“They’re interested in someone who can get something done,” he said.Lefebure grew up on a family farm near Fairfax. He’s a graduate of Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids and Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa with a degree in computer systems and networks. His four-year-old company, Lefebure Design LLC, focuses on using technology to improve agriculture with high-accuracy GPS receivers, electronic control of hydraulic circuits, micro-controllers, and data processing.

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