DAVENPORT — Offering a major boost to her campaign for Congress, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is backing Clinton County Democrat Rita Hart to take his place after he retires at the end of his current term.
The endorsement was announced during a joint interview Wednesday morning with Quad-Cities TV station WQAD. Loebsack says he’s known Hart since she began working in the Iowa Senate, and her record of reaching across partisan divides makes her “perfect” to be the district’s next representative.
“I’ve always tried to work across the aisle on issues whether it was education or broadband or any number of other things – veterans issues, for example,” Loebsack said during the interview. “I know that Rita has the same kind of record, I’ve known her since she got into the Senate. If she’s had that kind of a record … I think that she is perfect for this district in that sense.”
In a move that surprised many in Iowa Democratic circles, Loebsack announced in February that he would not seek re-election after his term expired in 2020. His decision immediately spurred high interest among Democrats eyeing a shot at the open seat and Republicans who think Loebsack’s departure will make Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District an easy pickup for the GOP.
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Hart entered the race as an established Iowa Democrat whose prominence quickly rose last year amid her unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. Since kicking off her congressional campaign earlier in May, the field of Democrats has narrowed significantly. Still considering a run on the Democratic side is first-term Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken.
For Republicans, Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District was among the national party’s 55 targets for the next election cycle before Loebsack announced he would bow out. So far, the only Republican to officially toss a hat in the ring is Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley, although others are considering a try, including former U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling who represented Illinois from 2011 to 2013.
Meanwhile, Loebsack’s endorsement of Hart comes one week after her campaign dropped a list of 73 endorsements from other established Iowa Democrats. Among those were some who mulled a run for Loebsack’s job, including Iowa Sens. Zach Wahls and Kevin Kinney.
Hart’s campaign says Loebsack’s endorsement was announced at the family farm she’s owned and operated since 1986. As a candidate for Congress, Hart has sought to present herself as someone who understands the diverse needs of the 24-county southeastern Iowa district, which ranges from rural farmland to some of Iowa’s biggest cities.