Anything Could Happen at Saturday’s Iowa Convention

Before Tuesday’s important June 24 primary that will decide Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R) fate among many other candidates in six states, a different nominating event will take place. Tomorrow, Republican convention delegates in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District (Des Moines/Council Bluffs) will meet to choose a US House nominee to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Latham as the party standard bearer. Under state election law, if no candidate receives at least 35 percent of the primary vote a post-election convention is called to choose a nominee. The delegates have no limitations over who they can choose.

In the June 3 primary, a very tight contest was held among six candidates, five of whom placed in double-digits. In first position with 25 percent of the vote, but a full 10 percentage points away from winning the nomination, was former state senator and 2010 congressional nominee Brad Zaun. Businessman Robert Cramer was second at 21 percent, followed by Secretary of State Matt Schultz registering 20 percent, association executive Monte Shaw notching 17 percent, and David Young, the former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who was originally in the US Senate race, next with 16 percent. The Republican district turnout featured 42,948 voters.

With a finish like this, and understanding that the convention rules allow delegates to nominate an individual who didn’t even enter the primary, literally anything can happen tomorrow.

IA-3 is an important congressional election because the seat is politically marginal. In 2012, President Obama won the district with a 51-47 percent margin. He carried Iowa 52-46 percent. In the congressional race that pitted Rep. Latham against then-Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) – a redistricting-created battle that paired two incumbents into one seat because Iowa lost a congressional seat in reapportionment – it was the Republican who won the general election by a substantial 52-44 percent margin. The victory spread is more of a credit to Rep. Latham’s personal appeal, and the type of campaign that he ran, rather than an indication of the district’s voting preferences.

Waiting in the wings is the Democratic nominee, a former state senator, Staci Appel. Maneuvering to the point that she was unopposed for the party nomination in a competitive open seat is a credit to her candidate abilities. Irrespective of tomorrow’s convention outcome, this race will be highly competitive in the general election, and Appel has perhaps an even chance of winning. If the Democrats are to have any prospect of re-claiming the House majority, this campaign becomes a must-win.

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