BREAKING NEWS

Rep. Dave Loebsack to retire from Congress

Iowa City Democrat's departure opens 2020 race for seat

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack arrives Sunday before Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke campaigns at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. Loebsack announced Friday he would retire when his term expires. (KC McGinnis/freelance)
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack arrives Sunday before Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke campaigns at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. Loebsack announced Friday he would retire when his term expires. (KC McGinnis/freelance)

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, the Iowa City Democrat who has served in Congress more than a decade, is retiring.

Loebsack made the announcement Friday afternoon. Originally from Sioux City, he has represented Eastern Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District since 2007.

The 66-year-old will retire from the House at the end of this, his seventh term in Congress; he said he will not seek re-election in 2020.

“I have enjoyed beyond my expectations serving the people of Iowa’s 2nd District for the past 13 years,” he said in a statement. “Having grown up in poverty, I never would have imagined having the honor of serving as the voice of Iowans in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Loebsack first was elected in 2006 when he upset Republican incumbent Jim Leach, who had served in Congress for more than three decades.

Loebsack has since won re-election six times, including his 2016 victory that left him the only Democrat in Iowa’s six-member congressional delegation.

Loebsack said he had planned to serve no more than 12 years. But after the 2016 election of Republican President Donald Trump, he decided to run for one more term.

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Loebsack said he will use the remainder of his final term to help the new U.S. House Democratic majority serve as a check on Trump and to help Democrats retake the White House in 2020. Loebsack said he also will continue to serve Iowa by working on what he called middle-class issues like affordable and quality health care, access to quality education and rural broadband internet access.

“In the remainder of my service, I will continue to serve the people of Iowa with the same energy and commitment that I have devoted to this job from the beginning,” Loebsack said. “I made it a point to meet with folks where they live, work and play in order to focus on improving their lives. I have worked hard to ensure all Iowans have had their voice heard.”

That style of making frequent public visits to greet constituents is a familiar strategy to Republican Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s senior U.S. senator who has become well-known for visiting each of the state’s 99 counties every year.

Grassley in a social media post called Loebsack “an outstanding public servant” who has represented his district well by working hard and staying in touch with his constituents. Grassley said he considers Loebsack a friend and wished him well.

Cheri Bustos, Loebsack’s Democratic colleague in the U.S. House from across the river in northwest Illinois, in a statement called Loebsack “a tremendous partner” who worked with her on behalf of communities along the Mississippi River.

The Iowa Democratic Party in a statement called Loebsack a “strong leader” and “tireless advocate” for veterans, renewable energy and Iowa families.

The party also expressed confidence in its ability to keep the district blue in 2020.

Loebsack’s retirement creates an open-seat race for the 2nd District.

While Loebsack has enjoyed electoral success there, Trump in 2016 won the 24-county district over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 4 percentage points after Democratic President Barack Obama had won it by 16 points in 2008 and 13 points in 2012. It was one of 21 congressional districts nationwide that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016 — despite the overwhelming Democratic margin in Johnson County.

In Iowa’s 2018 gubernatorial race, Democrat Fred Hubbell carried the district, including Johnson County, by 3 points. But Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds carried all of the counties in the district but Johnson, Scott, Lee, Des Moines and Jefferson.

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Although the district is thought of as a “pretty safe, easy seat for Democrats,” University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle speculated that the right Republican candidate could make it an interesting race.

“Other than Johnson County, the district is pretty evenly split” between parties, he said.

Johnson County has proved a juggernaut for Republican congressional candidates. In 2018, Loebsack won by 12 points; without Johnson County, his margin was just 2 points.

James Q. Lynch of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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