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Iowa’s 2012 Shuffle: Five Members, Four Seats

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Rep. Leonard Boswell says he’ll run for re-election no matter how his district is changed in redistricting. The Iowa Democrat won’t speculate on how the process will shake out.

“Iowans are lucky to have what is widely regarded as one of the fairest redistricting processes in the country governing how the new Congressional districts will be drawn,” the Republican said in a statement.

Most states draw lines for Congressional and state legislative districts in the state legislature and pass it the way any other bill is passed, subjecting the process to the partisan desires of those running the state legislature and the governor who signs the bill into law.

But in Iowa, the independent Legislative Services Agency draws up the proposal and submits it to the state legislature. The first plan must be submitted within a limited amount of time after the release of the official population count, but not before April 1. The districts must be roughly the same population, must include whole counties and should be reasonably compact. If legislators don’t feel the map meets those standards, they can send it back to the agency twice.

Once the process is done, though, it’s likely the larger cities that anchor districts now will do so again. A district will probably be centered on Des Moines, where Boswell has a house. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, where third-term Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley lives, is likely to anchor another in northeastern Iowa, and the population bases of Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities in the neighboring district of Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack could form a foundation for another district. Braley said he anticipates population growth in the northeastern part of the state means his district is likely to grow.

“We’ll have to see what the new map looks like, but realistically my district is probably going to move north to the Minnesota border,” Braley told Roll Call. “It’s probably going to move west, and it’s likely to move south in some ways.”

Boswell wouldn’t speculate on whether new lines would mean he continues to represent Des Moines. He declined to say whether he would prefer a rural district more like the one he represented in southern Iowa before the last round of redistricting.

“Everybody wants the capital city, whatever state you’re in,” he said.

Latham, who lives in Hampton, and Loebsack, who lives in Mount Vernon, told Roll Call in separate statements that they were disappointed to see the lost representation from reapportionment but plan to plow ahead in 2012. Loebsack said he is honored to hold his 2nd district seat and “would be honored to represent new counties as well.”

But in case squeezing five Members into four districts isn’t enough, current Members may not be the only ones keeping an eye on the Congressional redistricting process. Rumors persist that former first lady Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is calling Iowans about a potential run for Congress.

It’s unclear from where Vilsack would run. She’s from Mount Pleasant, which is in Loebsack’s district, but works in Des Moines. Her foundation’s office is across the hall from Boswell’s campaign headquarters.

Braley, who is rumored to be mulling a run for the Senate if Sen. Tom Harkin (D) retires in 2014, said he is taking the march toward the next election one step at a time.

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