The New York Times: "Why Iowa Has So Many Hot
Seats." October 27, 2002
Iowa has five representatives in the House and three competitive races, more than any other state. California has 53 seats and only one remotely competitive race, the contest to replace Gary A. Condit.
In California, the legislature went out of its way to protect incumbents of both parties when it drew new district maps after the 2000 census. That was the pattern in many states, though in places like Georgia, Maryland, Michigan and Pennsylvania, parties in complete control of the remapping process tried to draw districts that helped them gain advantage. Every state used computers to anticipate party voting.
Under Iowa law, a nonpartisan arm of the legislature draws the maps, using computer programs to create compact and contiguous districts that disregard partisanship and incumbency. The Republican-controlled legislature still had to approve it, but it was a straight vote, up or down, and amendments were not permitted. And Republicans cared most about the partisan advantage they thought the redistricting gave them in the state legislature (even though they placed 25 of the state's 50 senators in the same districts) and approved the package.
The result was that three Republican incumbents, Representatives Jim Leach, Tom Latham and Jim Nussle, all face serious challenges, Mr. Leach most of all. So, at first, did the state's lone Democratic Congressman, Leonard L. Boswell, though he seems safe now.
The new lines had put Mr. Leach and Mr. Nussle in the same conservative district. So Mr. Leach, one of the most liberal Republicans in the House, moved. Mr. Boswell also moved; he was stuck in the overwhelmingly Republican Western district, vacated by Rep. Greg Ganske, who is running against Senator Tom Harkin.
Iowa instituted this system in 1981, after getting fed up with lawsuits that led the state Supreme Court to draw the maps. The system is widely praised by good government advocates in Iowa and elsewhere. "An exciting part of redistricting is that it throws some incumbents together and creates open seats that are great opportunities for people to get involved," Chet Culver, the Democratic Secretary of State, said last year. Even Mr. Leach, ever the good sport, commented, "Good nonpartisan redistricting is good for the public."
The system fits the state's squeaky clean, super student council image, first claimed when Iowa's presidential caucuses were introduced to the nation in the 70's as living-room deliberations over the merits of candidates, not the vote-first, talk-later made-for-television events that they have become.
One advantage to politicians is that the system settles the maps early. By July 2001, parties could start recruiting candidates. Incumbents could find new houses or plan their retirements.
But the process also has disadvantages. A small state like Iowa builds up clout in Congress only through seniority, not numbers. In 1994, Iowa's redistricting process played a part in the defeat of the second-ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, Neil Smith, a 36-year veteran Democrat. If in 2002, it costs the seat of Mr. Leach, a 26-year, second-ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, some pragmatists may begin to question its value.
Barely six weeks after the post-Sept. 11 sheathing of partisan swords on Capitol Hill, politics was -- in House Majority Leader Dick Armey's understated phrase -- "back to usual." The rancorous congressional debate over the stimulus package and the airport security bill should have surprised no one: The polarization of the House of Representatives, which took decades to develop, is so deep-rooted that not even a terrorist attack is enough to reverse the trend for very long. The moderate voices who once forged compromises have all but vanished from committees and the floor.
Where has the House middle ground gone? That's a good question. Here's a better one: Why don't more moderates get elected?
The answer, in part, can be traced to changes in the redistricting process, that once-a-decade ritual undertaken by each state after the Census Bureau releases new population figures. A century ago, moderates had a strong voice in a House where competitive elections were the norm (election records show that fully half the seats in the 1890s were won by margins of 10 percent or less). Today, in all but a handful of states, the lords of redistricting engage in fierce partisan battles to create "safe" districts for one party or the other (in most congressional elections over the past 40 years, fewer than one-fifth of the seats were decided by margins under 10 percent).
There are still a few states, such as Iowa and Washington, which routinely host some of the most hotly contested congressional elections in the country. It's no coincidence that both states have handed over redistricting to a nonpartisan or bipartisan group -- and thatboth have a track record of sending independent-minded moderate representatives to Capitol Hill. "I can't believe everyone doesn't use our system," Marlys Popma, executive director of Iowa's Republican Party, told me.
Ironically, the overall decline in competitiveness -- and the House's current fractured state -- can be seen as an unintended consequence of a landmark series of Supreme Court rulings that were intended to open up the political process: the "one-man, one-vote" cases of the 1960s. The court, citing Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, required congressional districts to have roughly the same number of people. Before the court's rulings, districts could be of varying population; boundary lines generally were redrawn only when population changes caused a state to lose or gain a seat.
Creating districts of equal population was clearly a better way to ensure equal political power. But in effect, the court's ruling opened every district to redistricting mischief every 10 years. The process had always been highly political, but now the majority party in each state capitol had a greater opportunity to carve out safe seats. Or, in cases where the two parties share power, they can dicker and bargain over which districts will be primarily Democratic and which will be primarily Republican. Working with increasingly sophisticated computer programs, consultants hired by state legislatures can draw these partisan districts with ever sharper expertise. These designer districts now dominate the political landscape. As Tom Hofeller, the Republican National Committee's redistricting director, recently told the National Conference of State Legislatures: "In the politics of redistricting, politicians get to choose the voters."
These safe districts encourage hard-line views. "If you have districts drawn so that incumbents are always safe and don't worry about being reelected, it leads to less attention paid to the constituency," says Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state's 9th District. Think about it: If you represent a district that votes 80 percent Republican or Democratic, why worry about the views of voters from the other party? It's the winners of close elections who often are willing to soften an uncompromising stance.
Over the past four decades, redistricting has twice caused a blip of renewed competitiveness in the first election after new maps were released, with the number of close races higher in 1972 and 1992. Perhaps the process itself, and the accompanying hoopla, attracts both new candidates and voters. But as the decades wore on and the parties became entrenched in most of these carefully crafted districts, competitiveness tended to decline again; in 2000, for example, only 57 of the House's 435 seats were decided by margins of 10 percent or less -- an astoundingly low 13 percent.
Will this year's redistricting follow this familiar pattern? There's no reason to think otherwise. Eighteen states have already finished their work, and lawsuits spawned by cutthroat redistricting politics already clog more than a dozen state judicial dockets, with especially contentious battles underway in Texas and Georgia. Incumbents continue to petition their state legislatures to draw district lines in their favor, or at least so their districts remain on the map.
Now is the moment to take a serious look at less partisan methods of reshaping congressional districts. Iowans may have the most experience with the nonpartisan approach; in 1981, disgruntled by never-ending lawsuits, the state legislature handed the job to the Legislative Service Bureau, a highly respected agency that also drafts bills and does research for the legislature. Under the law that created the bureau, it is not permitted to use party data in its redistricting. The law also stipulates that counties not be divided and that contiguity must be maintained.
The bureau submits a redistricting plan to the legislature, which can accept or reject the first two attempts but cannot offer amendments until the third try. If no agreement is reached, the process goes to the courts. That has never happened.
This year, the legislature turned thumbs down on the first map, but approved the second -- which almost guarantees competition in four of the state's five districts.Thirteen-term Republican moderate Jim Leach, thrown into the 1st District with incumbent Republican Jim Nussle, has chosen to move from his home in Davenport to Iowa City so he can run in the unfamiliar terrain of the newly designed 2nd District. "We have zero input," Leach said. "The maps are put on the Internet at a given hour, and we have no pre-knowledge." None of his House colleagues quite believe it, he added.
Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Iowa's 3rd District and former president of the state senate, says he watched carefully 10 years ago to see if the redistricting plan truly surprised state legislators when it was put on their desks. "Guards were at the doors," he recalls. "I watched the face of the majority leader when he opened his envelope. I know it was a real surprise." To run in the newly shaped 3rd, Boswell also must move from his hometown.
After the initial shock of having to move their political bases, Leach and Boswell maintain they support Iowa's nonpartisan approach. "It's the fairest way I know of," says Democrat Boswell, who manages to please both the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce. Leach, who frequently bucks Republican leadership, agrees: "Good nonpartisan redistricting is good for the public," he says.
There is, of course, internal political grumbling, criticism and accusations about how Iowa's system sometimes works. "There's still politics in the process," the chair of the Democratic state party, Sheila Riggs, emphasizes. As there should be; after all, this is politics at its most raw. But so far, Iowa's nonpartisan approach has produced the desired result, at least according to the people in charge of it. "You've got to say the process shuffles incumbency," Gary Rudicil, the computer expert on the Legislative Service Bureau team, told me. Ed Cook, the head honcho for this last redistricting, agreed. "It's difficult to create safe districts using our method," he said.
Washington state, meanwhile, has gone the bipartisan route, setting up its first commission in 1991. The commissions consist of two Democrats and two Republicans chosen by the state legislature, and a non-voting fifth member picked by the four others; the panels go out of existence after each redistricting is complete. The redistricting plan must be favored by three of the voting commissioners and passed by the legislature.
In 1992, the state added a new district, the 9th, as a result of population gains. A Democrat won in 1992, and then the seat changed hands -- and parties -- in 1994 and again in 1996. Democrat Smith has held the seat since then. The commission drew the boundary lines, he said, with the intent of creating "a 50-50 district," with an equal number of Democratic and Republican voters.
"A split is good public policy," Smith said. "But it's bad for me personally. Obviously, I would like to be guaranteed my seat. But redistricting that sets out to protect incumbents harms democracy. It polarizes people and it makes the district less competitive."
Both Iowa and Washington have more than their share of congressional moderates. Leach, known for his independence, bucked President Bush on three energy-related votes in August. Democrat Boswell, meanwhile, broke from his party ranks to vote with the president on the same issue. Three of Iowa's five representatives frequently vote independently, as do five of Washington's nine representatives.
Only a half-dozen larger states now have redistricting panels or commissions that bypass the legislature, but the number is growing. Arizona, which gained two congressional seats in the 2000 censusand will have a total of eight for the 2002 election, recently joined the fold in an attempt to avoid the legal fights of the past. It remains to be seen whether this year's multiple legal hassles will lead more states to take the nonpartisan route.
Let's hope so. That may be the best way to create more competitive districts and bring back the voices of moderation and compromise that are so urgently needed on the House floor.
Joanne Dann, a Washington writer and former journalist, has been studying the effects of redistricting.
Drawn out of his lifelong home base of Davenport, Rep. Jim Leach (R) announced last week that he would move to Iowa City, where he'll run in a new, Democratic-leaning district.
In a prepared statement, Leach said the decision to move was "particularly difficult because of the strong attachment my family has to Scott County, where I was born and raised."
Leach, a 13-term moderate, made his announcement following the Iowa Legislature's approval last week of a plan drafted by the state's non-partisan Legislative Services Bureau. The plan throws Leach into a district with Rep. Jim Nussle (R), a conservative who will run for re-election in that seat.
However, Leach's troubles may not be over. In the new 2nd district, he could face a general-election battle against Rep. Leonard Boswell (D), who has not decided whether to run in the 2nd or the 3rd, a Democratic stronghold where he would face a primary challenge from state Sen. Matt McCoy (D).
A new political landscape is opening doors for some state lawmakers while forcing others to make some tough choices about their political careers.
The Iowa Legislature approved a map of new legislative and congressional districts Tuesday, and the governor is expected to sign it. The changes had the political scene abuzz Wednesday about what the future would hold.
"A lot of people were waiting until yesterday to decide," said Rep. Janet Metcalf, an 18-year legislative veteran who will retire from the Legislature next year rather than face off with fellow Urbandale Republican Scott Raecker.
Rep. Chuck Larson, a Cedar Rapids Republican, confirmed Wednesday that he will run for the Iowa Senate. His decision will prevent a Republican House primary against Rep. Jeff Elgin, also of Cedar Rapids. Another incumbent in the district, Democratic Rep. Dick Taylor of Cedar Rapids, will likely move south into an open House seat.
In central Iowa, Rep. Wayne Ford, a Des Moines Democrat, will move out of Beaverdale to his other house at 3301 Cottage Grove Ave., rather than face off with fellow Democratic Rep. Janet Petersen.
"The new district has half of my old district," Ford said. "It has Drake, Grandview and Broadlawns. Good working people, blue-collar, a very Democratic district. This open district was a dream come true."
Sen. Gene Maddox, a Clive Republican, is considering several options to keep himself in the Legislature. He said he'd prefer to run for re-election in his current district, although that would pit him against Senate President Mary Kramer of West Des Moines if she doesn't run for governor. He's also considering a move to Urbandale or the Dallas Center area.
"I have no desire at this point to retire from elected office," Maddox said. "An overwhelming priority is to stay in the Senate, and I will look for the best ways to accomplish that. If there appears at some point that there are no acceptable alternatives, then I would give serious consideration to the open House seat."
Republican Rep. Betty De Boef, a freshman from New Sharon, might move 12 miles east rather than run against veteran lawmaker Danny Carroll, a Grinnell Republican. She said the decision isn't easy.
"Twelve miles . . . it's a long ways when you're married to a farmer," she said. "Farmers are, I think, the least likely to pick up roots and go away from their operation. It's an option we haven't totally dismissed."
Even lawmakers unaffected by the new political map have decided to move on. Rep. Donna Barry, a Dunlap Republican, will resign in July to take a job managing U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's office in Council Bluffs. Her decision will spark another special election this year.
"I'd already made up my mind that I wasn't going to run again in the next election, and the opportunity came up," she said. "I was pretty sure they weren't going to hold it open for another year."
Rep. Teresa Garman, 63, an Ames Republican, will retire after 16 years. She said she's simply getting older. "My husband has been retired for five years and we're ready to do some traveling in the winter months," she said.
Sixty-four state lawmakers would run against another incumbent if they sought re-election in their current districts. Below are some contemplating changes:
DECIDED TO RUN: Rep. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, for Senate; Sen. Steve King, R-Kiron, for Congress; Rep. Chuck Larson, R-Cedar Rapids, for Senate; Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, for Congress; Rep. Steve Sukup, R-Dougherty, for governor.
CONSIDERING A DIFFERENT OFFICE: Rep. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, for Senate; Senate President Mary Kramer, R-West Des Moines, for governor; Sen. John Redwine, R-Sioux City, for Congress; Rep. Don Shoultz, D-Waterloo, for Senate; House Speaker Brent Siegrist, R-Council Bluffs, for Congress.
MIGHT MOVE: Rep. Betty De Boef, R-New Sharon; Rep. Wayne Ford, D-Des Moines; Sen. Gene Maddox, R-Clive; Sen. Mark Shearer, D-Washington; Rep. Dick Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids
RETIRING: Rep. Donna Barry, R-Dunlap; Rep. Teresa Garman, R-Ames; Rep. Janet Metcalf, R-Urbandale.
Des Moines Register
State representatives, convening in a special session at the State Historical Building, voted 78-18 for the plan to redraw Iowa's political districts to reflect population shifts indicated by the 2000 U.S. Census. The Senate gave its approval on a 37-13 vote.
Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, has said he will sign the legislation. Once law, the new political districts will remain in effect for 10 years.
The plan, which pairs 64 incumbents in the next legislative election, was the second to be considered. The first was rejected by the Iowa Senate during the regular session, which ended May 8.
The plan tosses two Republican congressmen - Jim Nussle and Jim Leach - into the new 1st District in eastern Iowa.
Leach said Tuesday that he would move from his lifelong home of Davenport to Iowa City, in the new 2nd District in southeast Iowa.
"The decision to move has been particularly difficult because of the strong attachment my family has to Scott County, where I was born and raised," Leach said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, a Republican, said he would not move from Alexander in the new 4th District, even though the 5th District in western Iowa includes a huge Republican enrollment advantage.
U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Davis City, said he was still considering his options, including moving to Des Moines, which is in the new 3rd District.
State Rep. Janet Metcalf, an Urbandale Republican and chairwoman of the House State Government Committee, praised Iowa's process of redrawing its political districts. Both plans were drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau and could not be amended by the Legislature. If the Legislature had rejected the second plan, a third proposal could have been amended by lawmakers
Iowa is one of only three states to pass new U.S. House and legislative districts this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"No one political party can grab the process and write a plan that gives it a disproportionate advantage," Metcalf said.
Ten Republicans and eight Democrats voted against the bill in the Iowa House. Rep. Phil Wise, a Keokuk Democrat who was in the Legislature the last time political districts were redrawn in 1991, criticized the new congressional districts.
"Bizarre, awkward, crazy, embarrassing," Wise said. "Those are the terms I've read by editorial writers about this congressional map, and they were correct."
In the Senate, seven Democrats and six Republicans voted against the redistricting plan, House File 758.
Sen. Steve King, a Kiron Republican, said the new maps are "as good as we're likely to see."
Sen. Dennis Black, a Grinnell Democrat who voted against the bill, called the new 4th District, which hooks from northeast Iowa into central Iowa, "a convoluted affair." Some lawmakers criticized the creation of a large western Iowa district that stretches from Minnesota to Missouri. Others objected to separating Polk County from its western neighbors. Several lawmakers said the new maps were approved mostly because lawmakers didn't want to open the process up to gerrymandering.
Metcalf said that next January, lawmakers will consider whether Iowa's process of redrawing its political lines should be changed.
Rep. Rebecca Reynolds, a Bonaparte Democrat, said she likes the current system because it does not allow political posturing. She said she would fight a change "with every breath that I have."
At a glance
Here's a look at some facts about the new districts:
1st DISTRICT: Enrollment advantage: Democrats (+2%). Major cities: Waterloo, Dubuque and Davenport. Incumbent(s): Reps. Jim Nussle and Jim Leach, both Republicans.
2nd DISTRICT: Enrollment advantage: Democrats (+6%). Major cities: Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Burlington. Incumbents: None.
3rd DISTRICT: Enrollment advantage: Democrats (+3%). Major cities: Des Moines, Newton. Incumbent: Rep. Greg Ganske, who has said he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2002.
4th DISTRICT: Enrollment advantage: Republicans (+2.5%). Major cities: Marshalltown, Ames, Mason City and Fort Dodge. Incumbent: Rep. Tom Latham, Republican.
5th DISTRICT: Enrollment advantage: Republicans (+15%). Major cities: Council Bluffs and Sioux City. Incumbent: Rep. Leonard Boswell, Democrat. Boswell has said he won't run in the heavily Republican district.
Movin' On Up.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) suggested last week that he's preparing to relocate north to Des Moines from his home in southern Iowa, a move that would help him avoid a tough race against Rep. Jim Leach (R) in the newly drawn 2nd district.
"I've been claiming [Des Moines-based] Polk County, or at least a piece of it, for a long, long time," Boswell told a business and civic group. He later said in an interview with the Des Moines Register that he is "comfortable" in Des Moines. "I feel a pretty close attachment to Polk County."
The Iowa Legislature is widely expected to approve a new House map Tuesday that dramatically reconfigures the district boundaries for the state's five House seats.
Rep. Jim Nussle (R) plans to run in the new 1st, a GOP stronghold. Leach may move to Iowa City to run in the new 2nd, a swing district that leans Democratic.
If he moves, Boswell would run in the new 3rd. However, a spokeswoman said Friday that he's keeping his options open until the state Legislature approves the proposal (the second House map drafted by the state's non-partisan Legislative Services Bureau). Boswell also may run in the 2nd against Leach.
Rep. Tom Latham (R) may run in the 4th or 5th districts. But he is also looking at a Senate bid, which would force him into a GOP primary against Rep. Greg Ganske.
Boswell apparently would not face a clear Democratic field in the new 3rd district. State Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines, who has already set up a House campaign committee for the new 3rd district seat, said he won't quit the House race, even if Boswell moves to his town.
Prospects for a GOP showdown between Iowa Reps. Jim Leach and Jim Nussle dwindled last Wednesday when Leach ruled out running against his colleague in any district, regardless of how a new map of Congressional district lines is drawn. But a Member versus Member race in Iowa remains possible.
The state's non-partisan Legislative Services Bureau unveiled a second House map that, like its first draft, dramatically reconfigures the state's five districts and again has thrown Members into a game of political chicken. Despite widespread shock at how much this map also reshapes the landscape, the second plan is expected to be adopted.
Nussle, whose conservative base would position him well in a GOP primary with the more moderate Leach, intends to run in the new 1st. A potential swing seat, the district includes 10 counties Nussle currently represents in the northeast reaches and two localities now held by Leach.
Leach, who has said he won't retire in 2002, now may run against Rep. Leonard Boswell, the House delegation's lone Democrat, whose Decatur County home was drawn into the new, GOP-leaning 5th district in western Iowa. Boswell, whose 3rd district was redistributed among four new seats, may move into the reconfigured 2nd in southeast Iowa, where voter registration tilts toward Democrats.
To avoid facing Nussle, Leach, a 13-term House Member and lifelong Davenport resident, is "strongly considering" moving about 40 miles west to Iowa City, which could place him in the new 2nd with Boswell, said Leach Chief of Staff Bill Tate.
During a meeting last Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Tate said, Reps. Leach, Nussle and Tom Latham (R) agreed to avoid a GOP face-off at all costs. "Everyone agreed that a primary between two Republican incumbents would be very counterproductive. Whatever decisions were reached, that would not be an option."
For his part, Latham plans to run in the new 4th, a 28-county district that cuts through central Iowa and has a strong Republican base.
The delegation's fifth House Member, Rep. Greg Ganske (R), is challenging Sen. Tom Harkin (D).
The new 2nd district includes roughly 64 percent of the constituents in Leach's current district and nearly 40 percent of Boswell's base. The Republican has represented all of the new 2nd except Wayne County at some point in his 25-year House career, Tate said.
"He has had a very cordial and constructive relationship for as long as Mr. Boswell has been in Congress, so he would be a formidable opponent," Tate said.
However, Boswell Chief of Staff Aaron Pickrell said the Democrat also may remain in the new 5th, which includes his home in Decatur County, despite its strong GOP tilt. However, the lawmaker could also run in the new 3rd, a swing district with a strong Democratic base in Des Moines. Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) also may run in the new 3rd.
If he does run in the new 5th, Boswell could face state House Speaker Brent Siegrist (R). Siegrist, who opposed the bureau's first map, said he is likely to run in the sprawling district.
In addition to throwing Leach and Nussle into the same seat, it would have reduced Republicans' strength in Rep. Greg Ganske's(R) 4th district, making it even more vulnerable to a Democratic takeover. Ganske is giving up the seat for a campaign against Sen. Tom Harkin (D). In an interview last week Iowa state House Speaker Brent Siegrist (R), who may run to replace Ganske, based his opposition to the plan on the idea that " population variances" under the bureau's plan are too high, meaning that the number of people in each district varies greatly. But Democrats say Siegrist may be motivated by his own political concerns. They note that the current plan offers him two unappealing options in 2002: running in Ganske's Democratic-leaning open seat, which does not include Siegrist's base of Council Bluffs, or a GOP stronghold in western Iowa that Rep. Tom Latham(R) is also eyeing. Latham would relocate to accommodate a move by Nussle under a plan supported by some GOP officials, and Siegrist said he thinks a second map could create a Republican stronghold that would pit him against Boswell. " I've known Leonard for a long time. He's a great guy, but he would have a tough time if he got tossed in here," the Speaker said.
The LSB will produce another map, which the Legislature only has the option of voting up or down. But if it moves to a third proposal, legislators can make changes to the plan. Although Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack has veto power over the lines, and some lawmakers are already predicting that the state Supreme Court will end up drawing the lines for Iowa's five House districts. The bureau was first assigned to draw House maps following the 1980 census. In 1981 the Legislature twice rejected bureau maps, ultimately drawing one themselves. In 1991 legislators accepted the bureau's first map.
A new map for House seats promises to dramatically alter the political landscape in Iowa, throwing GOP Reps. Jim Leach and Jim Nussle into the same district and creating two open seats. The state's Legislative Service Bureau, the non-partisan bill-drafting arm of the Legislature, proposed a map Thursday that would put Leach, the dean of the state's House delegation, and Nussle, the new Budget chairman, together in a redesigned 1st district based in the state's east-central region. The new 1st has a slight Democratic tilt in voter registration, but both Nussle and Leach have overcome such obstacles in the past. The real problem for Republicans will be figuring out how to avoid a Member-versus-Member primary. Leach, a 13-term House Member, was mulling his options last week, but aides said he would not retire in 2002. He said in a statement that the plan is " mathematically pure," but it would change the state's districts "rather dramatically."
Leach lives in the southernmost part of the new 1st. Nussle lives in a northwestern section of the district. Predicting that Nussle and Leach would not run against each other, some Republicans speculated Nussle might move into the nearby 3rd district, a GOP- leaning seat running along the state's northern border. If Nussle does so, Rep. Tom Latham (R), who is based in the new 3rd, may move to the incumbentless 5th, a proposed GOP stronghold along the state's western border that will take in many of his current constituents. The new 3rd presents Latham with thousands of new constituents. He currently has a vacation home in the northeast corner of the 5th. Elsewhere, officials drew a compact central-Iowa district based in populous Polk County. Rep. Greg Ganske (R) is retiring from that area's current district to challenge Sen. Tom Harkin (D).
At least two Democrats, state Sen. Matt McCoy and John Norris, Gov. Tom Vilsack's (D) chief of staff, plan to run in the new 4th. But Republicans boasted that most of the district's counties are GOP territory. "The one clear issue that has emerged from this plan is that the open 4th district leans decidedly Republican," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) said in a statement. "This gives us a clear advantage." The bureau's plan clearly benefits Rep. Leonard Boswell, the delegation's only House Democrat, whose new 2nd district will be a Democratic-friendly seat based in the southeast reaches. Boswell's current district, the 3rd, stretches across the southern tier and includes heavily GOP pockets in the state's southwestern corner.
State legislators will vote on the maps after two weeks of public hearings to be held across Iowa. Historically, lawmakers, who can cast only an up or down vote, have accepted the bureau's maps.
A proposed Iowa congressional map released Thursday would toss veteran Republican Reps. Jim Leach and Jim Nussle into the same district, while creating a new district with no incumbents. The map, proposed by the Legislature's nonpartisan bill-drafting arm, is far different from the current one, reflecting shifts over the last decade that have boosted the population of the Des Moines area and cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City in the eastern part of the state. Lawmakers will vote on the maps after two weeks of review and public hearings.
States must redraw their congressional district lines every 10 years after census figures come out. Unlike many states, Iowa keeps the same number of districts in the new census - five. Leach, the former Banking Committee chairman first elected in 1976, and Nussle, the current Budget Committee chairman first elected in 1990, both live in the same new district in the eastern part of the state. Leach spokesman Bill Tate the plan ``is mathematically pure, but changes congressional districts rather dramatically. It is always difficult to lose counties that have been represented for over a decade.''
Tate said Leach was mulling his options, but had no intention of leaving Congress. Nussle spokesman Scott Bruns said he had not yet studied the map. Iowa Republican Chairman Chuck Larson suggested that Nussle, who lives on the fringe of the new 1st District, could move into northern Iowa's 3rd District. ``It would literally be a six- or seven-mile hop for him,'' Larson said. Republican Rep. Tom Latham is currently in that district, but he in turn could move into the sprawling 5th District, where he already has a part-time home, Larson said. That new western district has no incumbent. Plans for legislative districts also created conflict. Twenty of 50 current senators are paired up in new districts, as are 50 incumbents of the 100-member House. State Rep. Pam Jochum, who helps devise Democratic legislative strategy, said the congressional maps are very friendly to her party. ``On a macro level I like it,'' she said.