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In Land of White Meat, Race to Get Red Hot

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Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Leonard Boswell talks with Marilyn Tracey of Polk City, Iowa, a former classmate, at the Iowa Pork Producers Association pavilion at the Iowa State Fair.

"The good thing is you're going to be my Congressman now — the only person better would've been King," Schonhorst told Latham, referring to GOP Rep. Steve King, the conservative firebrand from western Iowa.

But Boswell has a geographical advantage over Latham — one of his only legs up in this race. His former state Senate district included a handful of rural southwestern counties in the new House district.

He's also represented Polk County for the past decade, and voters are familiar with him here. Earlier in the day, Veterans Parade watchers greeted Boswell with the friendly call, "Hey Boz!" as he waved and pointed at them.

"This will have to be a target for him," Boswell told Roll Call between bites of a platter of pork, applesauce and beans. "Of course it will, as it is for myself."

Latham has never represented Des Moines, but he's spent millions of dollars in advertising there during the course of his Congressional career. His current district circles around the counties southwest of Polk County and extends all the way to Iowa's northeastern corner.

"I like this new district. It's very good for me," Latham said in an interview at the fair. "An awful lot of people here think that I represent them now, and certainly in surrounding counties, I do. They're familiar with me. They know me."

Prepared for Battle

Boswell and Latham won't appear as foes on the ballot for more than a year, but their unusual contest is already making waves in Iowa and on Capitol Hill.

For example, Boswell mistakenly thought Roll Call's photographer snapping images of him participating in the parade was a campaign tracker. Meanwhile, Latham is in the process of selling his home in Story County to buy a place in the new district around Des Moines.

Above all, the money race is in full swing.

Latham continues to fundraise at a quick clip, posting $1.5 million in cash on hand, about five times as much as Boswell, as of June 30. That's an advantage that is likely to grow in the coming months, given Latham's friendship with Boehner.

Despite the financial disparity, Boswell declined to acknowledge that Latham may be his toughest competition to date.

"We've always had a contest," he said. "I've been in a swing district, when I was in the state Senate, when I was in Congress, I've had contested races, and he really hasn't. He's been able to accumulate [cash], and that's to his advantage right now, but it's a ways out there."

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