I haven’t been in Iowa for most of the 2012 election cycle, but since I worked for the Census Bureau in 2010 I suppose I had a bit part in costing Iowa one of its five congressional seats. That development has been particularly interesting in the 3rd Congressional District, where Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell faces Republican Rep. Tom Latham in one of just two incumbent-on-incumbent general election showdowns nationwide.
The race has generally been portrayed as a toss-up, but Latham has been killing Boswell in the fundraising battle. He’s raised $1.6 million more than Boswell, and outside groups have spent $1.5 million more on Latham. According to the Cook Report, the “bible of the political community,” the contest leans Republican. Both candidates are longtime members of the US House: Boswell’s been there since 1997, Latham since 2003.
Latham is undoubtedly Boswell’s biggest threat since he took office, but Boswell is also still sparring with his 2008 Democratic primary challenger, Ed Fallon. (Full disclosure: as many Ames Progressive readers surely know by now, I volunteered on Fallon’s campaign for governor in 2006 and wrote a gushing story about his ill-fated bid against Boswell.)
Fallon’s now a Des Moines talk show host, and he sends out regular email blasts to promote his weekly lineup. Those emails don’t usually cause much of a stir, but on September 24 he resurrected his feud with Boswell in a message titled “Don’t Waste Vote on Boswell”:
Just as I am most certainly voting FOR Barack Obama, I am most certainly NOT voting for Leonard Boswell. I am also not voting for Tom Latham. Before I tell you who I AM voting for for Congress, let me give you five reasons why you, too, should not vote for Boswell.
1. Lack of integrity. Perhaps you have your own stories. I have heard some of them. Mine include Boswell sending an aide to bribe me with the offer of an $80,000 a-year job to not run against him. The aide also told me that Boswell was so in love with power that he had “become like Gollum with the ring.” The 2008 campaign itself was brutal, and it seemed there were no lies or half-truths that Boswell and his operatives would not stoop to.
“I’m advised not to divulge names yet,” Fallon told me in an email, but he insisted that the “same offer was made by two people, one not formally with Boswell but who claimed to have been sent by his people” and “the second [who] was a high-ranking Boswell staffer.” Fallon said his then-fiancee (now ex-wife) Lynn Heuss was present at both meetings.
Boswell was not amused. Four days after the email went out, he filed a defamation lawsuit against Fallon. “The allegations are untrue and we’re taking it to court,” Boswell campaign manager Kevin McTigue told me last week.
The lawsuit led a defiant Fallon, who is being defended by attorney Joseph Glazebrook, to wonder why Boswell would make such a “remarkably poor political decision” by associating himself with the word “bribe” in the news so close to the November election. (Glazebrook recently helped the ACLU of Iowa prevent Secretary of State Matt Schultz from purging Iowa’s voter rolls.) McTigue said there was no strategic reason, or concern, behind the timing of the suit; Boswell just wanted to set the record straight.
In spite of it all, McTigue remains confident about his candidate’s battle against Latham. “The Boswell campaign has purchased more than enough advertising time for the final weeks to be competitive and with polling showing a tied race, I’ll take my chances on the Democratic turnout operation versus the Republican turnout operation any day of the week,” he told the Des Moines Register.