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Christie Vilsack Confirms Bid for US House Seat
AMES, Iowa (AP) Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack formally joined the race to represent Iowa's new 4th Congressional District on Tuesday, saying she wants to end the partisan sniping that dominates Washington.
Vilsack will seek the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Rep. Steve King in the district covering north-central and northwest Iowa, including Sioux City, Mason City and Ames. She has been testing the waters for weeks after establishing a residence in Ames and announced her candidacy at a rally at Iowa State University.
Vilsack's husband, Agriculture Secretary and former Gov. Tom Vilsack, was at her side, as were her two sons. She said compromise and common-sense ideas will be her trademark during the campaign and in office.
"Iowans are sick of the partisanship and the finger-pointing that has poisoned our politics and blocked our progress," Vilsack said. "They want us to be civil with each other. We need leaders who are willing to sit down and talk to each other."
Vilsack also planned formal announcements at rallies in Sioux City and Mason City. No other Democrats have floated their names yet as potential candidates in the district.
King wasn't available to comment on Vilsack's announcement, said his spokeswoman, Anne Trimble Ray.
"He is focused on what is happening in Washington," she said.
The 4th District is the most Republican congressional district in the state, with more than 176,400 registered Republicans and almost 135,500 registered Democrats. However, independent voters outnumber members of either party, as they do statewide. About 178,300 voters registered in the district without declaring a party preference.
Vilsack was a teacher for 30 years and focused on literacy issues during her eight years as Iowa's first lady. She conceded the congressional race would be tough but said she's confident.
"I think every race is a tough race, but it's a winnable race," said Vilsack. "If you look at the numbers, we've got about a third Republican, a third Democrat and a third independent. It has to do with the message and my message is right in the middle and I'm excited to deliver it."
Vilsack has already demonstrated she can be a formidable opponent for King. She has raised more than $420,000 since she announced she was testing the waters, and she's stumped heavily in the 39 counties that make up the sprawling district that is one of the most rural in the nation. Vilsack, who was born and raised in Mount Pleasant, said she's comfortable in that setting.
"The small cities and rural communities that make up this district are critical to the future of our state," she said. "I want our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunity to grow and thrive in the Iowa I grew up in where tight-knit communities and the values of responsibility and respect mean we work together to solve our problems."
She also said she would bring a dose of common sense and compromise based on her rural roots.
"In Mount Pleasant, if I didn't have Republican friends, I wouldn't have had many friends," she said. "In the Midwest, we know that compromise isn't a bad word. I want to work with Democrats and Republicans and everybody in between for jobs and opportunity for Iowa workers and financial security for Iowa seniors."