Christie Vilsack seems “in” for fourth district showdown

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and her husband, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (the current U.S. Agriculture Secretary), are moving to Ames, Iowa, and Vilsack has formed an “exploratory committee” to run for congress, in Iowa’s fourth congressional district.  That means she’d be running to unseat Congressman Sreve King, a Republican from Kiron.  Here is her statement:

Serving Iowa is both a privilege and a responsibility.  The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration.  Next month, I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the US House of Representatives.  It’s important to listen to Iowa families about the issues they want addressed in Congress.  Hearing directly from citizens about their concerns and ideas is very important to me.  Too often in campaigns, it’s the other way around.  More than anything, this should be a discussion about Iowa values-the value of work, the value of opportunity and the value of community.   Input from fellow Iowans will help me make the best decision and will give our state a campaign focused on collaboration and results, encouraging a new way to do business in Washington.”  

Technically, she has formed an “exploratory committee” for congress, the ramping-up “toe-dipping” phrase with which you’ve become familiar because of all the presidential hopefuls who form exploratory committees enroute to a real, bona fide campaign aparatus. 

Yesterday, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said Christie Vilsack would be a “fish out of water” in the fourth district.  Last summer at the Iowa State Fair, Christie Vilsack talked about running for congress.

…Vilsack announced (in the fall of 2009) she had decided against running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Chuck Grassley. Vilsack said during an interview at the Iowa State Fair that she is considering “other options” like running for congress.

“I just turned 60, so timing is important — political timing as well as personal timing,” she said.  “It’ll be a whole new ballgame after the election and after redistricting, where we see the districts line up.”

The Iowa Legislature will redraw the congressional district lines in Iowa for the 2012 election and it’s likely Iowa will lose one of it’s five congressional seats due to population gains in other states.

“Nobody will actually have a claim on any particular district, I think, because it’ll be a whole new set of voters and a whole new set of constituents,” she said.

Being a first-time grandparent is one factor that’s pulling Vilsack in one direction. But Vilsack said women like her, who are in “the third part of their lives” are being recruited to run for office and she feels the tug toward putting her own name on the ballot after working a lifetime to elect others.

According to Vilsack, she’d enter a race with her “eyes open” to what it takes to run and win. “I know, which maybe makes the decision harder. If you have illusions or thinking that it’s glamorous — it’s not that I’m not optimistic, I just understand. I know how much hard work (is required),” Vilsack said.  “I know what the personal sacrifice is.”

 In December, Tom Vilsack indicated he would not step down as a caibnet secretary if his wife were to seek a seat in congress.  (He cited other examples of spouses who’ve worked in the two branches of the federal government at the same time.)

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.