Latham Stays, Boswell's Out

Nov 7, 2012

Congressman Tom Latham makes his acceptance speech at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

With two elder statesmen going head to head in Iowa’s third Congressional district, it was a given that Iowa would lose an incumbent. Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports that democratic Congressmen Leonard Boswell’s concession to Republican opponent Tom Latham was also a retirement speech.

It may have been a night of disappointment at Republican headquarters in Des Moines… but there was a bright spot. Tom Latham will be returning to Congress for a tenth term…

"This is something for a farm kid, originally from Alexander Iowa… to stand before you tonight," Latham said to a crowd at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines. 

Leonard Boswell speaking to supporters at Hotel Fort Des Moines.
Credit Sandhya Dirks / IPR

The Latham and Boswell race was notably nasty, in an already contentious political year… But when all was said and done, Latham thanked his soon to be former colleague…

"I want to thank Congressmen Boswell for his service to our country," Latham said. 

While Latham’s victory was a happy moment in a gloomy night for Republicans—Boswell’s defeat was bittersweet. Just moments after the ballroom at the Hotel Fort Des Moines broke out into cheers about President Obama’s reelection – a hush descended as Senator Tom Harkin introduced the 78 year old Congressman

"There is no Iowan I know who has given more in service to this state, and this nation than Leonard Boswell," Senator Harkin said. 

Boswell took the stage, surrounded by his family… and he admitted he was disappointed. If you’ve ever heard Boswell speak, you know he will often talk about his humble beginnings. And tonight at the sunset of his political career he told his origin story… just once more.

"I have… you’ve heard me say it, I will say it one last time," Boswell. "I started about 75 miles north of here in a tenant farm house, and look what we’ve gotten to do."

Boswell says it is amazing that he could grow up to become the voice of Iowans—and then he said goodbye. For John Kaiser of Des Moines it was an emotional moment.

"I’ve helped him on every single one of his campaigns and to see him go down," Kaiser said. "I couldn’t even go in and listen to it."

But Kaiser also admitted that he can live with Latham.

"To be real honest, if I have to stay this as a staunch Democrat—if I have to lose one and gain one," said Kaiser. "Tom Latham would be the one I would want to have to have."

Iowa's Democratic Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky says this is a time to look back and celebrate Boswell’s service—in politics and in the army. But she also says that there is room to look forward, to 2014…

"Well this is a competitive district," Dvorsky said. "It will always be competitive. It is evenly, somedays literally evenly split with registration."

So Dvorsky said it is sure to be in play—even if Latham runs again for reelection. Now however, Latham’s is headed back to a divided Washington as part of a Republican Congress to face a looming fiscal cliff.

Boswell said he will spend more time with his grandchildren.