Tom Latham and Leonard Boswell square off in Council Bluffs

Oct 12, 2012

Redistricting has pitted long term congressmen Republican Tom Latham and Democrat Leonard Boswell against each other in a tight race for Iowa’s 3rd district. As Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports, the Congressmen are trying to convince Iowan’s to send them back to Washington.   

The candidates sat at a roundtable before a live audience at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. This was the third debate in as many days for the two men, and at times it revealed not just differences, but overlaps.  When Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich asked them what they see as priority one, they had similar answers. Leonard Boswell says it would be a “balanced budget.” As for Tom Latham, “It wouldn’t take the President’s signature, but an amendment to the constitution for a balanced budget.”

Boswell joked, “we agree on something... isn’t that nice?” But that wasn’t the only thing they agreed on. When asked what vote they would do-over, both picked the same issue. Here’s Latham, “Well I wish that No Child Left Behind would have worked a lot better—it had the best intentions.” And here is Boswell, “right on, I agree. I regret that very much, we were terribly misinformed.”

But they did disagree, especially on the negative campaign ads the two are running against each other in this hotly contested race. Latham stands by his claim that Boswell upped payments to his staff during tough economic times. But Boswell says that overall, his office spent less money than Latham’s. Then came Boswell’s ad, which accuses Latham of benefitting from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP. Boswell says it’s hypocritical for Latham to oppose TARP on one hand while his family’s bank benefitted from the program on the other, “I hear him coming back to me well I did a bad thing voting for TARP, and he didn’t. Cause he was doing the right thing, and then to use it?”

And the two men disagree on whether or not TARP worked to revitalize says the economy. Boswell says it did, Latham says no. “It’s the American people, it’s not the federal government that are bringing us back.  We could expand so quickly if we had policies in Washington where people actually worried about the people at home rather just to yell at each other in Washington.”

Latham says he is the one that can make Washington more effective. He says he can help get bills important to Iowan’s passed, like the farm bill. But Boswell says Latham is part of the problem, “well my opponent claims he’s the most effective member and he’s personal best friends with the Speaker. The Speaker outta bring it to the floor. That’s his job, the senate passed a bill, the house committee passed a bill – its ready for the floor, we outta be doing it.”

Latham says the farm bill was too loaded with things that weren’t about the farm, and he says it’s another example of ineffective spending by the democrats. As for who will have more weight in Washington, Council Bluffs resident Mark Redecker says that is Latham, and he says that is one reason Latham has his vote. “In a way, you are better off with Latham because the Republicans control the congress right now, and if you send a democrat, he’s going be able to do less to begin with.”

But Chuck Smith, also from Council Bluffs, says the fact that the Republican controlled congress couldn’t pass a farm bill, is why Boswell is getting his vote, “when the democrats were in control in congress, they were able to get things accomplished that benefited Iowa, but now we seem to be in a state of gridlock, I don’t think that Latham’s connection with Boehner has really helped us at all especially when we can’t get an Ag bill passed.”

In the end what this race seems to come down to is which veteran congressman can get it done in Washington.  In Council Bluffs, I’m Sandhya Dirks, Iowa Public Radio News.