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Iowa Congressional District #1 - A Profile

posted on October 23, 2008 at 1:32 PM


Iowa's 1st congressional district while similar to others in the state has its own unique attributes. Demographically its population holds firm to blue collar roots, even as white collar employment rises. Agriculture still dominates the district’s economy but not just from the farm field. The district’s biggest employer is one of the largest farm equipment manufactures in the world. Hugging the Mississippi River from Scott County north to Clayton County and extending westward along highway 20 from Dubuque to Waterloo the district covers 12 counties and is arguably the most scenic in the state.

The first district is an Iowaphotographer’s paradise. The land provides some of Iowa's best views through a lens.

At Balltown, north of Dubuque,the vista extends nearly 30 miles.   The “Field of Dreams” lies in Dubuque County.  Grant Wood was inspiredby the rolling hills of Jones County.

But the only views that matter in the district this time of year arepolitical. They are the same views that are defining the state’s otherfour congressional districts.

Shannon Durbin of the Clayton County Register: "Flooding is the mainconcern, economy and Postville."

Shannon Durbin grew up in the district and now is the editorof the Clayton County Register based in Elkader.  This county is heavilyrural - but not remote to the political process. Illinois Senator BarackObama's presidential campaign put out a shingle in downtown Elkader thiscaucus season and according to Durbin-- generated excitement that extends downthe ticket.  

The 1st is also not immune to the brain drain, but certain pockets arefighting back.

Shannon Durbin: "I think the town is seeing the nextgeneration come in. Schools have younger teachers and the shift is on fromother generations that have gone by." 

One population center is Waterloowhere the issue of brain and job drain is a real concern.

Waterloo haslong history of manufacturing and blue collar jobs. But, the Rath packingplant along the Cedar River is still vacant.Officials of the Eagle Ridge Tannery announced earlier this year a plan to move100 plus jobs out of Waterloo and to Mexico.

For Waterloo-native and Republican Party of Iowa co-chair, LeonMosley, the economic issue touches everyone. 

Leon Mosley/Waterloo Community Activist: "I mean when you go to workworried about are you going to have a job,  its hard to branch out and buyflowers and pots and build garages and additions to your home... you just wantto get your money in the bank and get rid of the big question mark."

Waterloostill has reminders of the flood of 2008. This train bridge still sits inthe Cedar River after high water ripped it offthe foundation.  The flood wasn't even the biggest natural disaster to hitthis district.   That would be about 30 miles west in Parkersburg where an EF5tornado tore through town Memorial Day weekend.

Just four months later, nearly every house damaged by the stormis either rebuilt or torn down. The high school is already underre-construction, next to the renovated football stadium.

The three biggest communities in the first district, Waterloo,Davenport and Dubuqueare tied to Iowa’sbiggest employer, Deere and Company. The company not only feeds the big towns,but allows for commuters to take those salaries home to smaller communitiesnear the plants.

Jerry Lynch lives in rural Dubuque County. He's a retiredteacher and current state central committee member of the Iowa DemocraticParty. He believes a candidate will succeed in the first by encouraging votersto put the district and country first.  

Jerry Lynch/Bernard/Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee: "Wecan't be selfish and say well what's good for me. We have to say what's goodfor a district, what's good for a state and what's good for our country andhopefully we can work all of that in."

Lynch also knows health care needs attention.  While many jobs haveleft the district, many of those who worked those jobs remain and are aging. 

Down highway 61 from Dubuque is Davenport. The QuadCities' region is the biggest population base of the district. EdTibbetts of the Quad City Times says voters tell him energy and Iraq are stillconcerns, but the issue of the struggling economy will prevail.

Ed Tibbetts/Quad City Times: "It's had a heavy tradition in a bluecollar working class economy.  There have been some changes more so in theDubuque than say in Davenport and Waterloo and of course there are rural partsof the community that, that rely heavily on agriculture and that hasn't changeda lot but as the economy has shifted somewhat I suppose the politics haveto." 

Tags: 1st Congressional District campaign 2008 Congress deer Elkader Iowa John Deere manufacturing politics Tom Latham tourism water

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