Iowans Send Grassley to U.S. Senate for Sixth Term

m1103branstad - shot 11/02/10 West Des Moines, IA. Christopher Gannon/The Register -- Sen. Chuck Grassley and his wife, Barbara, greet supporters after the Senate race was called. Republican Party election night rally at the Hy-Vee Conference Center in West Des Moines on Tuesday night, November 2, 2010. (Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register)

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley easily cruised to a sixth term in office Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin and extending a 52-year political career.

Incumbents also were re-elected in all five U.S. House districts.

Grassley said he won easily in a year when incumbents were endangered because of close ties he's built with constituents over the years.

"I think I have a history of bucking anti-incumbent trends," Grassley told The Associated Press. "Look how many Republicans lost in my first re-election year."

That was in 1986, which was a bad year for Republicans.

Conlin said she was a victim of a Republican tide that made the election difficult for Democrats across the nation. She blamed an "anti-Obama, anti-Democrat" mood running through the electorate.

"You can't hold back a tsunami with your hands," Conlin told the AP. "We have some evidence to support what would have happened but for this. In June we were not very far behind, but all summer we could feel we were losing ground."

Grassley rejected the suggestion that he won because of a national GOP surge, saying his "has always been considered an individual race."

"I think I've got a record of people trusting me," said Grassley. "I keep in touch with the people and the most important thing, I haven't forgotten my roots, forgotten who I am."

Brenda Flaming, 47, of Huxley, said she voted for Grassley because she supports smaller government.

"I'm Republican," said Flaming, who owns a veterinarian clinic in Des Moines. "I still follow more of his beliefs in line of less government."

Mark Eimers, 58, of Huxley, said he voted a straight Democratic ticket.

"I'm not against Grassley, but what I wanted to see change and Grassley has been there 35 years and we need some new direction in this country," said Eimers, a retired U.S. government microbiologist.

Conlin, 66, said she decided to make the run against Grassley after hearing him warn that health care reform could mean "pull the plug on grandma," something she said he knew wasn't true. Grassley said his comments were taken out of context.

Throughout the race, Conlin sought to turn Grassley's long tenure in office against him, arguing he had become a creature of Washington and lost touch with the state. While Grassley argued he returned often to Iowa, Conlin said she lived in the state.

Grassley was first elected to the state Legislature in 1958, won the first of three U.S. House terms in 1974 and was elected to the Senate in 1980.

Grassley, 76, noted he visited each of the state's 99 counties every year. He raised roughly $7.5 million in this election cycle, far more than Conlin, even though she loaned herself $1 million.

Conlin has never been elected to public office but is well-known in the state. She headed the civil rights division of the Iowa Attorney General's office, founded the Iowa Women's Political Caucus and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa in 1977.

After losing a race for governor in 1982, Conlin focused on building a successful law firm but has remained involved in Democratic politics.

All five of Iowa's U.S. House incumbents were re-elected.

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