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U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa City, talks to Renewable Energy Group chief financial officer Chad Stone at the company's biodiesel production facility in Newton on Monday.

NEWTON -- Dave Loebsack has some advice for whomever wishes to represent eastern Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District in 2021: Get out and meet Iowans throughout the 24-county district, and do it often.

Loebsack on Friday announced his retirement from Congress. He is serving his seventh and final two-year term and will not seek re-election next year.

Just a few days after that announcement, which surprised most in Iowa political circles and completely changed the district’s campaign next year, Loebsack was back in Iowa and out in the district, meeting with workers at a biodiesel production facility in Newton, a manufacturing plant in Osceola and a rural hospital in Leon.

Loebsack said he would advise anyone hoping to succeed him in Congress to be similarly active in the district.

“I am particularly proud of the fact that I’ve gotten around so much into the district,” Loebsack said. “I think I’ve represented the district as well as it could be represented, in that sense, because I’ve listened to people and I have always tried to take that back with me to Washington, D.C.”

Loebsack said that is the best way not only to represent the district, but also to win an election there.

The district has a mix of strong urban centers in Iowa City and Davenport, but also many rural counties.

“The district is diverse. It has 24 counties, and while Johnson County (is where Democrats drive up their vote totals), there are 23 other counties that are really important,” Loebsack said. “There are others where you have to do well if you’re going to win. And to truly represent the district, you gotta get out into all those counties. And that’s what I’ve done since I’ve been in office: I get out into all the counties all the time, hear what people have to say.”

Loebsack heard from staff at Renewable Energy Group’s Newton facility on Monday. Employees talked about a variety of subjects, but foremost was the federal biodiesel tax credit.

Federal lawmakers are debating whether to extend a package of tax credits, including one for biofuel production. Loebsack said there is widespread support for the biofuel credit, but the package is being held up over disagreements on other credits.

“Biodiesel is not the problem. There’s support for it. You’re being held hostage for other things,” Loebsack told the workers.

Chad Stone, the company’s chief financial officer, thanked Loebsack for his work on the issue and his support for the biofuels industry.

“You’ve been one of the most consistent champions for biodiesel in Congress, and you haven’t let partisan politics get in the way of that,” Stone said.

Loebsack said he will continue his work on behalf of the district for the remainder of his term, which runs through 2020. He said he will continue to focus on renewable energy, access to education and broadband internet in rural areas, and veterans’ issues. He also said he will work to help his seat remain in Democratic hands and to elect a Democratic president in 2020.

Loebsack said he’s not sure what he will do after the election, but is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including traveling with his wife and seeing more of his three grandchildren.

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State house reporter for The Courier/Lee Enterprises.

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