MUSCATINE, Iowa — An local legislator from is setting his sights on another capitol — the one in Washington, D.C.
Iowa Rep. Mark Lofgren, 51, a two-term Republican lawmaker from Muscatine, plans to make his officials announcement Wednesday morning at Boonie’s on the Avenue in Muscatine and four other sites that he will run for the Republican nomination for the Second District congressional seat now held by Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.
The public is invited to join Lofgren at Boonie's, 214 Iowa Ave., at 9 a.m.
Lofgren is the first Republican to declare his candidacy for Loebsack's seat. The Republican and Democratic primary elections will be held in June 2014.
“I have learned a lot from my constituents — both the supportive and the not-so-supportive ones,” he plans to say in the speech, which Lofgren’s wife, Paula, provided to the Muscatine Journal on Tuesday. “I often hear people comment that the two parties in Iowa don’t work well together. I can tell you from experience that this is just not the case.”
Reached in Des Moines Tuesday morning after attending a ceremony for Latino groups held at the Capitol, Lofgren said he didn’t give the decision to run much thought until after the 2013 legislative session ended last month.
“During the session I had different people talk to me saying this is something I should consider,” he said. “Obviously it was a very busy session and it became clear that I didn’t want to talk about it much until the session got squared away.”
He praised fellow legislators for their mentoring and encouragement, including former Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, now a Cedar County supervisor; House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha; and Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake.
“This may be the worst-kept secret in Iowa,” Kaufmann said by telephone Tuesday. “I almost hate to see him broaden his interest. He has been such a hard-working (state) legislator and an almost boundless advocate for Muscatine.”
“He’s also been pragmatic and willing to work with people on the other side. I think people in the Second District will see the same hard work and dedication that we have seen.”
Joe Hand, a spokesman for the man Lofgren hopes to challenge in November 2014, said Loebsack "has a proven track record of consistently looking for ways to reach across the aisle to actually get accomplished what Iowans are demanding." Hand confirmed that Loebsack plans to seek re-election for a fifth term.
Kaufmann said he hasn’t heard of other GOP candidates who plan to declare for the race. “I am sure there will be a primary, but I think Mark will be as competitive as any other Republican candidate,” he said. “It is difficult to beat an incumbent, but I don’t think Congressman Loebsack isn't as ingrained in the Second District as other (representatives) have become. I think voters, especially independent voters, will pause and look at both of them.”
Kaufmann called Lofgren “a unique politician who doesn’t waste time with things done for pure politics.”
“An open-minded shot,” he said, “is all a candidate can ask for.”
Lofgren, a lifelong resident of Muscatine with four children, said he’s taken an increasing interest in the state budget during the three years he’s been in office. “I think Iowa has done a good job” managing expenses and revenues, he said, “and we have a lot of good values in Iowa that will be good attributes in Washington, D.C.”
Another of those values is collaboration, he said.
“In Iowa, we are better at ironing problems out, but in Washington I don’t think they do,” he said. “I have tried hard (in the Appropriations Committee, which Lofgren served as vice-chair in 2013) to allow the other party to voice their opinions. You just get the five most liberal and five most conservative members out of the mix and the rest of us can work it out.”