Iowa 1st District
Northeast Iowa, along the Mississippi River and westward, has some of the loveliest landscape in America. Here the Mississippi flows past green bluffs, then broadens out in great quiet pools alongside picturesque towns. A century and a half ago, as settlers surged west of the Mississippi, Germans stopped at the river bluffs reminiscent of their native land and built neat farmhouses and substantial towns. Inland, on the rolling hills portrayed with surprisingly little exaggeration in the paintings of Iowa’s Grant Wood, and in the more open territory to the west, New England Yankees and Midwesterners built their characteristic farmhouses, barns, town halls, church spires, and small colleges. Railroad companies, headquartered in Chicago, extended their networks of steel rails over the plains and rivers. Davenport, on the hills over the Mississippi, still has the look of the city where Ronald Reagan got his first radio job. German Catholics settled Dubuque, whose giant Victorian courthouse looks down on the river. Home to a giant John Deere facility that sells tractors worldwide, it is a self-styled green city that has other large factories but is also proud of its waterfront-generated tourism. However, major floods along the Mississippi in June 2008 extensively damaged many river towns. Farther west is Waterloo, which grew rapidly after 1900 as its John Deere tractor factory expanded and the eight-floor Rath factory became the largest meat-packing plant in the world. Rath closed in 1984 and Deere has laid off thousands, but Waterloo has rebounded somewhat with new industries from telemarketing to a high-tech Iowa Beef Processors factory, acquired by Tyson Foods in 2001.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District covers much of northeast Iowa, including the Mississippi riverfront, from the antiques town of McGregor south to Davenport, Iowa’s part of the Quad Cities. From the river, it spans west 100 miles to Butler County. There is considerable political variation here. Davenport and next-door Bettendorf were historically Republican, but in 2000 and 2004, like much of eastern Iowa, they voted narrowly for Al Gore and John Kerry. In 2008, as Iowa began to look favorably on Barack Obama, these areas helped to lead the way. Dubuque, heavily German Catholic, was for years Iowa’s most Democratic city, and still is unless abortion is the issue. But the rural counties along the river and farther west—more German Protestant, Scandinavian, and Yankee—were traditionally Republican. Waterloo and Cedar Falls, originally Republican, trended sharply Democratic in the 1980s. Overall, this district is pretty evenly balanced and has become a key battleground in presidential contests. At one point in 2004, President Bush and John Kerry were campaigning within blocks of each other in Davenport; thieves took advantage of the distraction and robbed three local banks. Bush lost the district by 7 percentage points each time, and Obama won it by 17 percentage points in 2008.