In a rare public moment of good will, and despite a bruising re-election campaign, Republican Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa led a tribute Thursday to his vanquished election opponent, Democratic Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, who served 16 years in the House.
“Although we haven’t always agreed on issues before us, Leonard’s relationships with his fellow members have enabled him to work with colleagues of all political stripes,” Latham said on the House floor. “His work on behalf of his constituents has exemplified what Iowans expect [of] their representatives in Congress: someone who is approachable, thoughtful and hardworking.”
Latham, who has served in the House since 1995, and Boswell were forced into a race as a result of redistricting. Latham, a close friend of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, decided to move into a new district where he would face Boswell instead of facing fellow Republican Rep. Steve King in a primary. Their general election matchup was a hard-fought and expensive contest that saw Latham prevail, 52 percent to 44 percent.
“I appreciate the many years of service Leonard Boswell has provided to our home state of Iowa and its people,” Latham said. “I know he will continue to serve his fellow Iowans faithfully beyond the conclusion of this Congress, and in that I truly wish him and his family the very, very best.”
Boswell, a decorated Vietnam veteran, appeared to be touched by the tribute.
“Thank you, Congressman Latham,” Boswell said on the floor, noting that the two had not spoken since his concession on election night.
“Our little conversation we had a few moments ago before this started was kindly,” he said.
Boswell said some had suggested he not accept the tribute since he and Latham were opponents not long ago, but Boswell brushed off those suggestions.
“I said, ‘No, we are from Iowa, and we don’t do things like that,’” Boswell said. “You made me proud today, and I thank you for it.”
Along with Latham and King, the tribute included comments from the rest of the Iowa House delegation, Democratic Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and Reps. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., Tom Petri, R-Wis., and Sam Graves, R-Mo., also spoke to Boswell’s character. Former Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, was also in attendance.
More than one member used the phrase “salt of the earth” to describe Boswell. Along with what they called his common-sense manner, they paid tribute to his military service and advocacy for veterans.