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Retiring Iowa Congressman has Successor in Mind, Not Ready to Announce Publicly

Apr 18, 2019

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) announced this month that he will retire at the end of his current term in office, which expires at the end of 2020. He said he made the decision to provide plenty of time for people to enter the race to replace him.

Loebsack pulled off a major upset in the fall of 2006, defeating 30-year incumbent Republican Jim Leach in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, and has held onto the seat ever since.

Loebsack said he always intended to serve a maximum of six terms in office (12 years). But he said that time frame changed after people encouraged him to run for a seventh term so he could continue to provide a check against what he described as the impulses of President Donald Trump.

Loeback defeated Republican challenger Christopher Peters last fall to secure that 7th term. But Loebsack said he knew seven was enough for him, prompting him to announce on April 12, 2019 that he would not seek re-election.

Loebsack said he envisions retirement as spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren while also sleeping and exercising more. The former college professor did not rule out a return to the classroom at some point.

Interview Highlights

TSPR: Why did you announce your retirement just a few months into your current term in office?

Loebsack: So that folks who have been thinking about it for a long time have some time to think about it and get in in a timely fashion and build a campaign and take my place.

I do want to make sure to the extent to which I can that this particular seat stays in Democratic hands. The sooner I made the announcement, the more likely that would be the case.

Rep. Dave Loebsack visiting a farm in Lee County in 2012.
Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR

TSPR: Do you plan to make an endorsement?

Loebsack: I will be endorsing. There is no question.

TSPR: Do you have anyone you would favor at this point?

Loebsack: I do, but you know, I think at this point, it is better to not talk about it publicly, quite honestly, but I do have someone I do favor at this point.

TSPR: The first time we spoke, you arrived in my office in Keokuk wearing bicycle shorts. Can you imagine going from bicycling through southeast Iowa to serving in Washington D-C for more than 12 years? Is that even feasible to you?

Loebsack: It is. When I decided to run that first time, I made that decision in July 2005 and when you saw me on the bike, it was either July or August. I did like five weeks around the district on the bike. It was a really good thing for me to do for a variety of reasons. Obviously, it caught the attention of people, which was important, because I was a huge underdog.

I knew it was possible for a Democrat to win. Not likely, but possible. I went in with eyes wide open and I always believed I could win that seat.

TSPR: This district re-elected you in 2018. But it also voted for President Trump in 2016. What does this district tell you what it is right now?

Loebsack: It is not the district I represented, the old district or the new one for that matter after 2012. So whoever ends up running on the Democratic side has to be cognizant of that. Take into consider… Ottumwa is not as reliably Democratic as it used to be… Lee County, Des Moines County as well. I think that if you go out into the district enough and meet with people on both sides of the aisle and those who consider themselves independent, you can win those votes as well.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.