Democrats Down on Potential Iowa Candidate

Young is a top Democratic target in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Young is a top Democratic target in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 8, 2015 at 5:00am

Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy is seriously considering a challenge to Republican Rep. David Young, a top target in 2016.  

But Democrats in both Washington, D.C., and Iowa are concerned about the Des Moines Democrat’s congressional ambitions in the 3rd District, a must-win seat for Democrats looking to slice into the Republican majority this cycle.  

In fact, their concern about McCoy’s candidacy has “been pretty constant since he threatened to run back in 2002,” one Iowa Democratic operative said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of interest in him running.”  

Young, the incumbent Republican, won an open-seat race to succeed longtime GOP Rep. Tom Latham. He’s one of 12 incumbents the National Republican Congressional Committee placed in its Patriot program for vulnerable incumbents for 2016.  

Young defeated former state Sen. Staci Appel by 10 points in 2014 in a dismal year for Democrats, but the party has higher hopes for the presidential election cycle. Appel is mulling a rematch , and Democrats are also looking at Nick Klinefeldt, the U.S. attorney in the Southern district of Iowa .  

McCoy ditched his 2002 bid when then-Rep. Leonard Boswell, a fellow Democrat, moved into the district following redistricting. A state legislator since 1993, McCoy has a colorful past that makes him rife for attacks from the GOP.  

In 2005, McCoy was accused of funneling money from a businessman to a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and he agreed to pay a fine to settle the accusations in 2008.  

He was indicted on a federal extortion charge in 2007, when he was accused of “threatening to use his influence as a senator to force a business partner to pay him $2,000,” according to a report from the Associated Press. Though he was ultimately acquitted, the incident would give Republicans easy fodder in advertising.  

A long legislative career also presents political landmines for a McCoy candidacy. In 2003, he had one of the worst attendance records in the state Senate, according to a Des Moines Register report at the time, missing 104 of the 344 votes recorded in the chamber.  

McCoy did not return a request for comment about his intentions in the contest. In a recent interview with a local blog in Des Moines, McCoy said he was not the first choice of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blaming that reality on his sexual orientation (he’s openly gay) and his profile as a state legislator.  

“A guy like me who has been bare-knuckle fighting in the legislature for 22 years, who is openly gay, who has been through the political scrapes in my life, that would not be their ideal candidate,” McCoy told the Iowa Daily Democrat last week .  

The DCCC declined to comment on a possible McCoy candidacy.  

President Barack Obama carried the district by 6 points in 2008 and 4 points in 2012, making it a seat Democrats must capture for any hope of picking up the 30 seats necessary for House control. It’s one of a handful of races that start the cycle rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  


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