Rep. Tom Latham (R)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: July 14, 1948, Hampton .
Education: Wartburg Col., 1966-67, IA St. U., 1967-70.
Family: Married (Kathy); 3 children.
Professional Career: Farmer; Bank teller/bookkeeper, 1970–72; Independent Insurance agent, 1972–74; Hartford Insurance mktg. rep., 1974–76; Co–owner, Latham Seed Co., 1976–present.
The congressman from the 4th District is Tom Latham, a Republican elected in 1994. Latham grew up on a farm in Franklin County, near Alexander (pop. 162), where his family has owned a seed company since 1947. For years, Latham was active in Republican politics, attending the national convention and serving as a farm adviser to GOP Rep. Fred Grandy. In 1994, Grandy challenged Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and lost a close primary, while Latham ran for the House. His Democratic opponent, Sheila McGuire, had been one of 47 health care professionals on an advisory panel for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s unpopular health care plan; Latham opposed it. He won 61%-39%.
|Tom Latham (R)||185,458||(61%)||($1,627,654)|
|Becky Greenwald (D)||120,746||(39%)||($634,014)|
|Tom Latham (R)||13,144||(100%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (57%), 2004 (61%), 2002 (55%), 2000 (69%), 1998 (100%), 1996 (65%), 1994 (61%)
In the House, Latham has a moderately conservative record and has usually been a quiet but diligent member who avoids the national spotlight. However, he has been a close ally and confidant of Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, whom Latham backed in a bitterly fought intraparty contest for majority leader in 2006. Latham has pursued local interests on the Appropriations Committee and its agriculture subcommittee, and helped to bring home money for causes ranging from disaster aid to farm research. He has been enthusiastic in securing federal funds for the National Animal Disease Center, a research center in Ames. He criticized the Senate Appropriations Committee, where Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin is a senior Democrat, for reducing funds needed to complete the center, which he described as essential to “agro-terrorism” prevention. In 2006, he enacted a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Cresco scientist Borlaug.
In 2007, after a local Navy officer died in Iraq, Latham pushed to passage a law to permit grandparents and other family members to get the military death benefit if they assume custody of a dead soldier’s children. Earlier, he worked with Senate Republicans to give reserve and National Guard soldiers the same health benefits as regular military personnel. He called for faster troop withdrawals from Iraq, but he opposed a deadline.
In 2002, redistricting made the district more competitive, and Latham faced the most vigorous campaign since he was elected. He had not been a robust fundraiser, and Democrats targeted the seat. Their nominee was John Norris, former chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack and, in 2003 and 2004, presidential contender John Kerry’s Iowa manager in the precinct caucuses. Norris attacked Latham for supporting Republican positions on taxes and health care, was an aggressive campaigner, and raised more than $1 million. But Latham won by a relatively comfortable 55%-43%, winning all 28 counties, though only by 9 votes in Ames’s Story County, which cast the most votes.
In 2006, Latham’s opponent was Selden Spencer, an Ames neurologist who spent two weeks in Afghanistan treating patients and training doctors shortly before the election. Spencer called for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Latham commended Spencer for his medical contributions in the region, but said he disagreed with him on the war. Latham won, 57%-43%, carrying every county except Story County, which gave 52% to Spencer. Latham decided not to challenge Harkin in 2008. He again had a serious contest for re-election that year, against Democrat Becky Greenwald, a former marketing executive. He raised eyebrows by saying he did not want President Bush, by then unpopular with the public, to campaign for him. He won easily, 61%-39%.