Iowans’ shock upon hearing news last week that U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack would not seek another term was justified. In this age of cutthroat, winner-take-all politics — especially in competitive congressional districts — such announcements are closer to the exception than the rule.
Too often, retirements are coordinated with political insiders, an heir apparent waiting offstage. In the worst scenarios, future plans are kept quiet, leaving opposing forces to scramble to find quality candidates. Not this time. National insiders already are placing bets on the anticipated broad race of 2nd District political ponies.
But, then again, Loebsack is accustomed to being the exception.
Few predicted, way back in 2006, that the college professor and Iowa native would unseat 30-year Republican incumbent Jim Leach. Loebsack later prevailed despite redistricting, which forced his family to relocate. In 2016, Loebsack was elected as Iowa’s only Democratic member of Congress, in one of the nation’s few districts that flipped support from Barack Obama to Donald Trump.
Spend any amount of time with Loebsack and you’ll soon learn of his poverty-stricken upbringing in Sioux City. His mother, Delores, divorced from her husband, struggled with mental illness as the five-member family struggled with finances. In and out of jobs because of her illness, Delores moved her family from house to house until coming to rest in a home they shared with Loebsack’s maternal grandmother. Then in elementary school, Loebsack had his first glimpse of stability.
Clawing his way to the middle class would have been accomplishment enough, much less Loebsack’s unlikely ascent into the halls of Congress. Along the way, he has championed the very safety net programs that kept his family afloat. Popular or not, he has stood with military veterans and working Iowans, demanding better conditions in the private and public sectors. He worked for federal flood relief and recovery funding. Long before the national drumbeat for inclusion of mental health services in comprehensive health care began, Loebsack was an advocate for the vulnerable.
While Loebsack hasn’t always won this board’s endorsement, there are few times he’s failed to earn our respect. The very public rollout of his retirement plan, combined with his advice for his successor to focus on constituent services, is a fine example of why.
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