Most election forecasters put Iowa’s third Congressional district in the “safe Democratic” or “likely Democratic” category, but Republicans in this state have vowed to run hard against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell.
The mystery “top-rate” Republican recruit for this race emerged today.
According to The Iowa Republican blog, former Iowa State University wrestling coach Jim Gibbons will file papers with the Federal Election Commission today to run in IA-03.
At Ames High School, he won three state titles. At Iowa State University, he was a three-time All-American and won a national championship during his junior year.
When his collegiate wrestling career was over, then-ISU coach Dr. Harold Nichols, offered Gibbons a job as an assistant coach. When Nichols retired in 1986, Gibbons was named head coach. He coached seven individual NCAA champions while compiling a 96-32-1 career coaching mark. After winning the NCAA Championships in 1987, Gibbons was named national coach of the year. He was named Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1991 and retired from coaching after the 1992 season.
Since leaving coaching, Gibbons has been a financial advisor, most recently with Wells Fargo Advisors in West Des Moines. He also serves as a television commentator, providing color commentary for ESPN, The Big Ten Network, and Iowa Public Television. In 2003, he was named broadcaster of the year by the National Wrestling Media Association.
Gibbons says he is retiring from Wells Fargo to run for Congress full-time. He opposed the federal stimulus package and Democratic bills on health care reform and climate change.
I’m guessing that this means State Senator Brad Zaun and former Iowa GOP chairman Mike Mahaffey will not seek the Republican nomination to challenge Boswell. Gibbons can probably raise a decent amount of money and may even be able to self-fund his campaign. The National Republican Congressional Committee is unlikely to invest a lot of money in this district in my opinion.
College wrestling is a popular sport in Iowa, but I still don’t see Boswell as a likely casualty next year. If unemployment keeps rising, though, who knows? Any comments about this or other House races are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user mirage, who is a Republican, doesn’t think much of Gibbons and believes Zaun would be a much stronger candidate. Zaun was mayor of Urbandale, a heavily Republican suburb of Des Moines, before winning a seat in the Iowa Senate in 2004.
SECOND UPDATE: I was wrong about Zaun, who told CQ Politics today that he plans to run against Boswell. Zaun said he will formally announce his candidacy sometime after December 1.
Zaun was just re-elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008, so he won’t have to give up his seat in the upper chamber if he loses the GOP primary or the general election.
CQ Politics suggested that with Gibbons and Zaun in the race, it may change its rating on this district from “safe Democratic.” I tend to agree with the statement that Gabby Adler of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent to CQ Politics:
“Each year Republicans claim they have Congressman Boswell in their sights, and each year they never live up to their own hype – there is no reason to believe this time will be any different,” Adler said.
What puzzles me is why so many Republicans are seeking this position. Even if a Republican beats Boswell, he is likely to be thrown into a 2012 primary against Tom Latham in a redrawn IA-03. Few people would choose a freshman over a nine-term incumbent with a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.
THIRD UPDATE: CQ Politics changed its rating on IA-03 from “Safe Democratic” to “Democrat favored” because Gibbons and Zaun are joining this race.
NOVEMBER 25 UPDATE: Zaun has filed FEC paperwork for this race and revamped his website.