WASHINGTON — Republicans have been taunting Democrats running in swing districts this cycle about the problems of the new health care law, suggesting that its troubles will prove a liability for them next year.
But Staci Appel isn’t shy about her support for the law as she seeks to represent southwest Iowa.
“Health care is important,” she said. “Everybody should have access to it.”
Appel is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Council Bluffs. Democrat Gabriel De La Cerda also is seeking the nomination.
Appel, 47, noted that she has been frustrated along with everyone else with the rocky rollout of the health care law. The website has to be fixed, and people should be able to keep their old insurance plans if they want them, she said.
But ultimately, she said, the law just needs more time. And she said voters she speaks with on the campaign trail want the overhaul to work.
“Overwhelmingly, people support it. They know it’s important,” she said. “It just hasn’t been rolled out in a very strong way, and I think that’s what’s frustrating Americans and Iowans.”
Some Democratic candidates have been reluctant to comment about the health care law. For example, the Hill newspaper recently contacted 31 Democratic candidates about the health care implementation and reported that fewer than a third responded with a comment. At the time, Appel and Nebraska Democrat Pete Festersen were among those on the publication’s “no comment” list.
Festersen has continued to remain silent. The Omaha city councilman, who is challenging eight-term Republican Lee Terry in the 2nd Congressional District, said recently through a spokeswoman that he would not discuss “congressional issues” until after he formally announces his candidacy — an announcement that most likely won’t come until sometime after the holidays.
Appel, a former Iowa state senator from Ackworth, has attracted national attention and should be able to raise enough money to fuel a robust campaign.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named her to its Jumpstart program for top tier challengers, and EMILY’s List has fully endorsed her.
A former stockbroker, Appel touts her business experience and her bipartisan work as a state legislator and says she would work in Congress on helping small businesses, closing tax loopholes and agriculture policy.
“I would be doing everything I could to get a farm bill passed,” she said, noting that legislation appears to be stalled.
While Appel is optimistic about her chances, outside observers are skeptical that the is a race that can be won by a Democrat.
Political analyst David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report notes that his organization continues to rate the district as “likely Republican” for next year.
“At the moment we don’t see it as a competitive race,” he told The World-Herald.
Wasserman said there is little evidence that Appel could draw more votes than Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, did in his loss last year to Latham despite solid name recognition and a long-time bloc of supporters.
Redistricting was responsible for pitting the two incumbents against each other last year.
“If the election were held next week, Latham would win by a mile,” Wasserman said of Appel’s chances.
Appel cites the partial government shutdown as evidence that Washington is not working. But while the issue certainly was potent a month ago, Wasserman said, it has faded.
Wasserman suggested that for the shutdown issue to have real teeth next fall, Republicans would have to repeat their mistakes again in 2014.