Rita Hart


WHEATLAND -- Rita Hart says her family knows what to expect when she tells them: “‘Oh, come on! It’ll be fun.”

The phrase usually means Hart, a former state senator from Wheatland, is about to embark on a challenging new journey. And it’s one she’s using again as she begins a campaign to replace outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in Congress.

“I think that’s what we’ll start (Tuesday),” Hart said. “We’ll start the fun of this campaign, which is getting out there and engaging with as many people as we can and listening to see what they have to say.”

Loebsack, the representative of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District since 2006, announced in April he would retire at the end of his current two-year term. His decision has set off high interest from members of both major political parties to become the district’s next representative in 2020. Hart is walking into the campaign as the best-known of any of the prospective Democrats, which include Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken, Iowa Sen. Zach Wahls and Quad-Cities attorney Ian Russell. Following her stint in the state senate, Hart was the running mate of unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell, a venture that’s given her statewide name recognition.

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As Hart seeks the office to represent the 24-county district that covers the southeastern quarter of the state, she pointed to her longtime community involvement, 20-plus years of teaching, and six years as a state senator among her qualifications. And she says her background as farmer and educator raised in a divided political household makes her a good fit for the district.

“This is who I am,” Hart said. “This is where I live and these are the people that I’ve spent time with and worked with to try to make every day better. And that’s what I’ll continue to do. That’s what I want: to do that for them in this congressional seat.”

Meanwhile, the absence of Loebsack from the ballot is likely to trigger a highly competitive push from Republicans eager to wrestle the district away from Democratic control in the November 2020 election.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the main campaign arm of congressional Republicans, already had listed Loebsack’s seat among its 55 targets for 2020 well before Loebsack made his retirement plans known. The mayor of small-town Osceola Thomas Kedley, a Republican, said he intends to seek the seat, making him the lone GOP player on the field for now. wIn an interview with the Quad-City Times ahead of her formal announcement, Hart named health care, agricultural economy and rural development as key issues she’ll focus on if elected.

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