IOWA CITY — Eastern Iowa’s purplish 2nd Congressional District crowed its blue hues Tuesday with its 12-year Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack surging toward a seventh consecutive two-year term.
With 23 of 24 counties reporting Tuesday, Loebsack — who has held the congressional seat since 2006 — was leading with 55 percent of the vote to his Republican challenger Chris Peters’ 42 percent.
“I’m just looking forward to getting back to Washington and doing what I have been doing for years and working for people in the 2nd District,” Loebsack told The Gazette late Tuesday, noting a projected Democratic takeover of the House will provide him more sway.
“I think it will give me a good platform to work even harder and get more done for the people of the 2nd District,” he said.
Should Loebsack’s margin of victory hold, it will barely best his 54-46 percent defeat over Peters in 2016, when the same district went red on the presidential front — with Donald Trump achieving a 4 percentage-point edge.
That red-blue split two years ago made Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District one of 13 Democratic-held U.S. House districts in the country that went for Trump — districts many perceived as more competitive in this year’s midterms.
But polls for months have put Loebsack ahead of Peters — with one in September showing Peters trailing by 23 percentage points and another in October showing Loebsack ahead by 13. Also appearing on the ballot for the seat was David Clark, 27, a no-party candidate from Mount Pleasant, and Mark Struass, 60, a Libertarian candidate from Bettendorf.
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With 23 counties reporting, Strauss had 2 percent of Tuesday’s vote, and Clark was at under 1 percent in the district of more than 585,000 that covers most of the Southeastern part of the state, including Cedar, Clinton, Johnson, Muscatine, Scott and Washington counties.
Johnson County, among the most urban within the district, showed overwhelming support for Loebsack with 72 percent of the vote. Two years ago, Loebsack won Johnson County in a similarly-commanding fashion — with 68 percent of the votes to Peters’ 32 percent.
“I really believe that people understand and like the fact that I’m here as much as I am and hearing what they have to say about the issues,” Loebsack said.
Peters during this year’s campaign shared optimism of a Republican flip, noting he got a late start on his 2016 bid — as he joined in March of that year after another Republican dropped out.
“Ground game is critical, especially in a state like Iowa,” Peters, a 58-year-old Coralville surgeon, said in August at the Iowa State Fair. “Bigger team, a lot more effort, starting earlier, building on name ID from the previous cycle.”
Peters had argued his moderate views on immigration and trade, for example, would have made him a more-capable collaborator in the often-gridlocked U.S. Congress. But Loebsack, with his strong showing, rode a Democratic wave of enthusiasm across Iowa. The 65-year-old congressman first elected to the seat in 2006, has been reliably true to his party’s ideology and convictions — proclaiming, for example, sustained support for the Affordable Care Act, especially its benefits for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
He also recently dug in on his vow to reject any Republican changes to Social Security or Medicare. On Tuesday, Loebsack told The Gazette his priorities in the new term will be jobs and the economy.
“And continuing on that path and doing everything we can for this part of America that seems to be forgotten by both parties,” he said.