One of the biggest surprises this 2014 Iowa election season was Third District Republican Congressman Tom Latham’s announcement late last year he would not seek re-election. Thanks to redistricting in 2012 it was incumbent versus incumbent in the third district when Latham faced another longtime congressman, Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell.
In 2014, it’s a crowded group of Republicans running to face a Democrat who’s been in the race for almost a year.
TV viewers in Council Bluffs, Des Moines and smaller southwest Iowa communities are getting to know the half dozen GOP candidates. The two most known candidates are state senator and former Urbandale mayor Brad Zaun and Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Zaun lost a congressional race against former Congressman Leonard Boswell in 2010.
Also in the running is former Senator Chuck Grassley Chief of Staff David Young, Construction Contractor Robert Cramer, the Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Monte Shaw and teacher Joe Grandanette.
If no candidate gets 35 percent of the vote in the primary, it goes to convention. Republican delegates then make the decision.
Craig Robinson with the Iowa Republican dot com says then it’s a jump ball.
“I really think that if it goes to convention you might see the under card in candidates like Shaw and Cramer really have a good shot at convention," said Craig Robinson, the editor of The Iowa Republican. "I think a lot of people would assume Shultz and Zaun since they’re so well known. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case in 3rd district.”
Robinson said he's most confident that Brad Zaun would be the best candidate because he is the Des Moines and Polk County candidate. Robinson said usually candidates have 18 months to run for congress. Now, he likens it to a madhouse as these six candidates scramble to campaign in just a few months.
“You get a different type of general election match up based on who you select. But I think the campaign against Staci Appel is the same for whoever it is,” Robinson said.
The only Democratic candidate this year is Staci Appel from Ackworth. She's been running for the seat since before Tom Latham said he would not seek another term. Appel is a former state legislator who lost re-election to a high-profile tea party candidate in 2010. She would be the first woman Iowa sends to Washington if she wins in November.
“I think it’s about time we send a woman to congress from the state of Iowa," Appel said. "I got in July of last year. I got in coz I was frustrated about what was going on in Washington D.C. and I knew it needed to change.”
Iowa Democratic chairman Scott Brennan said Latham’s early exit gives Appel a more competitive race.
“(Latham) dropped out early enough that it didn’t really change anything thematically for Staci," Brennan said. "As opposed to going against someone who was going to have an enormous amount of money she’s running against people who aren’t particularly really well known.”
But Appel is not that well-known either. That gives Appel and whoever she faces in the general election plenty of time to inundate mailboxes and TV screens in a district that’s only known incumbents.