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Iowa voters re-elect House incumbents

Redistricting created competitive races

Jim Leach
GOP Rep. Jim Leach, shown here with President Bush, narrowly won re-election in Iowa.

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DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Iowa voters re-elected four incumbent House members Tuesday, deciding the competitive races created by the state's unique redistricting process.

All five of Iowa's House districts were redrawn, forcing incumbents to move or significantly alter their re-election strategies. In the 2nd District, 13-term Republican Rep. Jim Leach defeated Democratic challenger Julie Thomas, a pediatrician in Cedar Rapids. Leach, often a party maverick, moved from Davenport to Iowa City when redistricting put him in the same district as fellow GOP Rep. Jim Nussle.

GOP officials feared losing Leach's seat unless he ran in the 2nd District because registered Democrats outnumber Republicans there by about 17,000 voters. Thomas lives in Cedar Rapids and practiced medicine in Iowa City, two of the district's big population centers. Leach represented most of the counties in the district at one time and was a dogged campaigner. The race was a tossup going into Election Day.

In the 1st District, Nussle, a six-term Republican, defeated longtime Bettendorf Mayor Ann Hutchinson, a Republican-turned-Democrat. Nussle faced a challenge in the race because redistricting increased the number of Democratic voters in the district. In the 2000 presidential election, Vice President Al Gore won the old 1st District with 51 percent of the vote; he would take the new one with 54 percent. Nearly half of the new 1st District voters also were new to Nussle, including Hutchinson's base of Scott County.

Nussle also set personal bests this year for fund raising, while Hutchinson lagged behind, forced to fight for the Democratic nod with former Rep. Dave Nagle. Democrats highlighted the fact that Hutchinson took Bettendorf from choking deficits to record surpluses, while Nussle presided over the House budget panel as the federal government headed back into the red.

In the 3rd District, Rep. Leonard Boswell, Iowa's lone House Democrat, won re-election, defeating a challenge from GOP attorney Stan Thompson. Boswell moved to Des Moines to run against Thompson, a longtime Des Moines resident. Democrats hold a 4,800-vote registration edge there, and Boswell, a former state House speaker, has surprised critics before by winning convincingly over well-funded and aggressive challengers.

Thompson, a former GOP chairman who is more than 20 years younger than Boswell, sought to make Boswell's age an issue. "We need to have a congressman with energy and vigor," he said at a televised debate. Boswell also opposed free trade bills, allowing Republicans to paint him as a tool of big unions.

In the 4th District, GOP Rep. Tom Latham was re-elected over former Iowa Democratic Chairman John Norris, a former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Vilsack. Latham is unaccustomed to competitive re-election campaigns, and Norris was widely considered by Capitol Hill insiders to be the party's strongest challenger in Iowa this year.

In the 5th District, state Sen. Steve King was re-elected over Democrat Paul Shomshor of Council Bluffs. King was favored to win in the new Republican-majority western 5th District going into Election Day.

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