Iowa Summary and Analysis

Iowa Loses One Seat

For the last decade Iowa has had five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, as a result of the 2010 census and subsequent reapportionment, Iowa will lose one representative.  Historically, Iowa has had as many as eleven districts (from 1883 to 1933) and as few as two (from 1848 to 1860).

Iowa has a unique process for redistricting, using an independent government agency to draft legislative and congressional plans. The plans are drawn by the advisory Legislative Services Agency, and submitted as part of a single bill including legislative and congressional districts. The LSA is a support agency to the state legislature, performing a variety of services, such as technical assistance and research support.

The LSA’s plan is created in cooperation with the state legislature’s Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission, which acts as a liaison to the public. The LSA develops plans with a focus on are equal population, integrity of political subdivisions (both counties and cities), contiguity, and reasonable compactness. The Iowa Constitution provides strict formulas by which compactness is to be computed. No political data, such as the homes of incumbents or party registration statistics, may be used by the LSA in the redistricting process, though the legislature may use such data when reviewing the plans drawn by the LSA.

The LSA’s plan is submitted to the legislature for approval. If the legislature does not pass the plan, or if the plan is vetoed, the LSA is tasked with creating a new plan. If three consecutive plans drawn by the LSA are rejected by the legislature, the legislature can amend and then adopt the third LSA plan, subject to the governor’s veto.

In the past three elections, 2006, 2008, and 2010, incumbents in all five districts held on to their seats.[1]  With the loss of one of the five districts, 2012 will be different. Iowa’s old Fifth District covered most of western Iowa and included the cities of Council Bluffs and Sioux City. The new map divides the district’s territory in half, assigning the northern half to the Fourth District and the southern half to the Third District.

First District

Iowa’s new First District covers the northeastern part of the state.  Its boundaries have expanded to include some portions of the previous Second, Third, and Fourth Districts. The district has 761,548 residents and its largest counties are: Linn, Black Hawk, and Dubuque.[2] The district is mostly urban[3] and includes the cities of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo.

Before redistricting, the First District was overwhelming Democratic [4]. Now the district includes some conservative counties, such as: Worth, Mitchell, Howard, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Marshall[5]. However, the district still maintains at least a majority of Democratic voters [6]. It is predominantly white [7] and has a Cook PVI of D+5 [8].

There are three candidates running in 2012: Incumbent Democrat Bruce Braley and Republicans Rod Blum and Ben Lange. Lange surprised Braley in 2010 by coming within 2 percentage points of an upset.

Second District

Iowa’s Second District covers most of southeastern part of the state, including Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The district has 761,624 residents and its largest counties are: Scott, Johnson, and Clinton.[9] Like the First, the Second has not been radically changed. It expanded to the north by taking counties that had been in the old First and Third Districts and also added some from the old Fifth District to its southwestern edge.

The Second District is the most Democratic in the state, with the Cook PVI of D+7 [10]. Democrat Dave Loebsack has represented the district since 2007. Redistricting forced Loebsack to relocate to stay in the Second District [11][12]. He is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Iowa state senator, Joe Seng. Republicans competing against him are Dan Dolan, a homebuilder from rural Muscatine County and John Archer, an attorney from Bettendorf.

Third District

Iowa’s Third District covers the southwestern part of the state. Redistricting has changed it dramatically. The old district is now split between the First and Second and the new Third District contains most of what used to be the Fifth. Polk County is the only one that stayed in the Third. It is the most populous county in the district, with 56.5% of the district’s population and home to the capital, Des Moines. The district has 761,792 residents.[13]

Democrat Leonard Boswell is the incumbent.  He is being challenged by Tom Latham, congressman for Iowa’s current Fourth District. Latham chose to move to the new Third District to run against Boswell rather than against Steve King for the Republican nomination in the new Fourth.

Fourth District

Iowa’s Fourth District covers the northwest quadrant of the state. It encompasses much of the old Fourth and Fifth Districts. The district has 761,571 residents.[14] Republican Tom Latham is currently representing this district but he has moved to District Three to challenge Boswell. The Cook PVI was even before the redistricting, and it will shift toward the right, as half of an R+9 region is being included in this district. [15][16].

Democrat Christie Vilsack, wife of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, moved to challenge Republican Steve King, incumbent for the Fifth District, whose district has been eliminated. The new Fourth has about half of King’s current district. Vilsack’s candidacy will command extra attention because Iowa is one of only two states in the nation – along with Mississippi – that has never elected a woman to Congress [17].

[2] Iowa Data Center,

[5] Rose Institute of State and Local Government

[9] Iowa Data Center,

[13] Iowa Data Center,

[14] Iowa Data Center,

[16] Rose Institute of State and Local Government