This is Part 9 of a 50-part series examining the Congressional districts in place for the 2012-2020 election cycles.
The third state to pass its Congressional redistricting law this cycle is Iowa. Iowa is one of a few states that uses an independent redistricting commission to draw both Congressional and legislative lines, which then have to be approved by the legislature and Governor. This year, the legislature was satisfied with the first report from the commission.
Iowa’s process is notable for completely ignoring existing district lines and happily throwing incumbents into the same district. Iowa lost a district this year, and most speculation involved the old Third and Fourth Districts being merged. While Reps. Boswell (D) and Latham (R) will indeed be running against each other, the two new districts in western Iowa really don’t resemble the three old districts in that part of the state.
Ethnicity: 91% white
Incumbent: Bruce Braley (D)
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 58%, McCain 40%
2012 Outlook: DEM Hold Favored
The most Democratic seat in the state, the First District essentially traded the Quad Cities for Cedar Rapids in redistricting. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo resident, narrowly held this seat against the 2010 Republican wave, and Iowans are historically hesitant to vote out incumbents. With the district shifting very slightly to the left, I’d expect the seat to stay in Democratic hands.
IA-02 (Davenport and Iowa City)
Ethnicity: 88% white
Incumbent: Dave Loebsack (D)
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%, McCain 41%
2012 Outlook: DEM Hold Favored
The Second District spread a bit further west in redistricting, losing Cedar Rapids and gaining the Quad Cities as well as several low-population western counties. As a result, it becomes about three points more Republican. Technically, no incumbent currently resides in the new district, but Rep. Dave Loebsack, a college professor who now lives just north of the district line, has announced his plans to run here. While possibly vulnerable in a strong Republican wave like 2010, the district hasn’t been weakened nearly enough to put Loebsack seriously at risk.
Ethnicity: 86% white
Incumbents: Leonard Boswell (D), Tom Latham (R)
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 52%, McCain 46%
2012 Outlook: No Clear Favorite
When the Iowa maps were unveiled, many were surprised to see Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Des Moines resident, sitting as the only incumbent living in this district, while Republican Rep. Tom Latham, of Ames, thrown into the same district as conservative Steve King. But Latham has chosen not to face King in a primary, instead going against Boswell. Boswell has represented more of this district than Latham has, and he’s got experience winning tough races. But the district is actually more Republican at the national level than either Boswell’s or Latham’s old districts. Ultimately, this will probably be one of the more exciting House races of the 2012 cycle.
Ethnicity: 90% white
Incumbent: Steve King (R)
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 50%, Obama 48%
2012 Outlook: GOP Hold Slightly Favored
Rep. Steve King has a reputation for being one of the more… vocal members of the House Republican caucus. In his old Fifth District, this wasn’t a problem for him electorally, and indeed, it’s still unlikely to be a problem for his Republican primary prospects, given the conservatism of the Iowa Republican electorate. However, his new district is four points more Democratic than the old one, which has led Democrats to wonder if King may be vulnerable to a challenge. Christie Vilsack, wife of Agriculture Secretary (and former Iowa Governor) Tom Vilsack, has announced that she will be challenging King in the 2012 general election. As this is still a Republican district and Iowa tends to favor incumbents, it will be an uphill challenge, but this race definitely bears watching, as King hasn’t had to run a serious campaign since he won the Republican primary for this seat in 2002.
With 9 states considered, the notional partisan breakdown of the House prior to the 2012 election is: GOP 9, DEM 6. (GOP -1.)