“The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Next month I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.” She has a website and an ActBlue fundraising page set up already.
The race has already drawn some national attention since Vilsack’s husband — former Iowa governor and current U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — said earlier this week that if she did run the race will be a “holy war.”
Christie Vilsack sought to downplay her husband’s comments in a radio interview Wednesday; “I think my husband two days ago wasn’t the spouse of a potential candidate and I don’t think he’s got the spouse thing down quite yet,” she told Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson.
Christie Vilsack has made it known in recent years that she was interested in running for elected office in her own right.
Following the state’s non partisan redistricting process, she considered challenging one of the state’s three Democratic incumbents in a primary, but she was reportedly dissuaded by party officials. In the new map approved yesterday, that left her with only one option: challenging King.
It’s not an easy race for a Democrat, but redrawn lines makes the new west-central 4th district a little friendlier. The new seat only went to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 by 50.2 percent; King’s old 5th district gave McCain 54 percent, by contrast, and the Republican incumbent currently represents less than half of the territory in the new 4th.
State election officials said there are 176,310 registered Republicans in the district, compared to 135,562 registered Democrats. There are, however, 177,143 voters registered without declaring a party preference.
While the seat is no cakewalk for King, Republicans are already working to portray Vilsack as an appendage of the national Democratic party.
“Iowa voters understand that sending Vilsack to Washington will only result in more debt and a vote to try to put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s Chair,” said National Republican Campaign Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. In a statement, King said only that “the Republican and Democrat primaries are more than a year away.”
Although her husband is better known nationally, Christie Vilsack is a serious political mind. She’s also a native Iowan; her family goes back there for generations. She was an active surrogate in both of Vilsack’s gubernatorial runs, and worked for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. She considered running for Senate in 2010..
“Christie has an enormous well of goodwill from her time as first lady,” said John Hedgecoth, who worked for former governor Chet Culver (D). But still, even with redistricting, he says the district has “that culturally conservative base that she’s going to have to talk to.”
If Vilsack does win, she’ll make history. Iowa has never elected a woman to Congress.