IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa's congressional hopefuls made a last-minute push for support voters went to the polls on Tuesday, including candidates vying for nomination in three competitive primary races after the state's political landscape has been dramatically altered by redistricting.
Voters began trickling into polling stations across the state, where the once-a-decade census that accounts for population shifts resulted in Iowa losing one of its five congressional seats. In two competitive districts, that has meant the addition of more rural counties and a swapping of Iowa's second and third-largest cities; Cedar Rapids moved into the 1st District and Davenport into the 2nd.
The races in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, which comprise the eastern half of the state, will narrow the GOP field to one candidate in the two districts and determine whether Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack can seek a fourth term in office. The three-term congressman moved about 20 miles south to Iowa City after his 2nd District was redrawn so that he wouldn't have to run against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley. Then he drew a primary opponent in state Sen. Joe Seng, 65.
Turnout appeared extremely low at precincts in Iowa City after polls opened at 7 a.m., with only a handful of voters turning up.
Loebsack said he and his wife were the eighth and ninth voters to cast ballots at their Iowa City precinct, and that was 90 minutes after it opened. Loebsack has worked hard to reach voters in areas he hasn't represented before, including in Seng's hometown of Davenport, which is Iowa's third most populous city, at roughly 100,000 residents. He said he expects to easily dispatch of Seng on Tuesday, then focus on the general election, which he expects to be competitive.
"I respect Joe's right to run. He's been a good state senator, and I expect him to continue being a good state senator if everything goes according to plan today. Hopefully we'll all come together. It's not been divisive at all as far as I can tell," he said.
Craig Kloss, a 47-year-old construction company worker from the same neighborhood where Loebsack moved after redistricting, said he voted for Bettendorf lawyer John Archer in the Republican primary, despite seeing little difference between him and his 2nd District opponent, Muscatine home builder Dan Dolan. Both candidates campaigned on promises to cut spending, create jobs and try to balance the federal budget.
"They both hit a lot of the same themes, but I guess Archer's message resonated with me a little more," Kloss said.
"For me, it was his message on economic issues. For my wife, it was more family issues," he said.
Dolan planned to make last-minute calls to potential supporters on Tuesday and go door-knocking in Davenport, a spokesman said.
"It's hectic, very hectic," Dolan campaign manager Matt Leopold said Monday. "Right now, it's all about door-knocking. We think our turnout effort is going well, and we're excited for (Tuesday)."
Archer's campaign said he and his volunteers knocked on nearly 8,000 doors over the course of a week and were working the phones to turn out Republican voters. Archer met with local Rotary clubs on Monday, and planned to spend much of Tuesday in media interviews.
The final day "is more dedicated to the traditional things — radio interviews, getting John on the radio as people commute to work and back," campaign manager Steve Hensler said Monday, adding that Tuesday is "about reminding people, 'Hey, John Archer is running for Congress.'"
In the 1st District, two Republicans were competing in a race that has focused largely on who has the best shot at defeating Braley, 54, a three-term incumbent who doesn't have a primary challenger. After redistricting, the 1st District now stretches from the Mississippi River to Marshalltown and from Cedar Rapids to the Minnesota state line.
Independence lawyer Ben Lange has argued he has built the extensive campaign needed to unseat Braley. Lange, 33, narrowly lost to Braley in 2010 and said he has a broader base of support and more campaign money than his primary opponent, Dubuque businessman Rod Blum.
Blum, who owns a software company and develops real estate, cast himself as part of a wave of come-from-behind Republicans who have beaten or forced runoffs with favored candidates in Nebraska, Indiana and Texas.
Blum, 57, also has struck on populist themes, slamming the "ruling class" and Lange as a young lawyer who "wants to go to Washington for the next 20, 30, 40 years."