Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Iowa governor and U.S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is taking steps to challenge conservative Congressman Steve King next year, setting up one of the most high-profile congressional races of 2012.
Vilsack's website, which launched today, asks visitors to make donations as she continues to "consider running in Iowa's 4th congressional district." The former Iowa first lady is also moving to Ames, Iowa next month, according to the Des Moines Register, and she has formed an exploratory committee.
As the wife of Tom Vilsack, who served as governor for two terms, Christie Vilsack has a high profile in the state. On top of that, she can count on the support of the Democratic Party should she decide to run, Politico reports. Vilsack's candidacy could also garner extra attention since Iowa is one of two states in the nation, along with Mississippi, that has never elected a woman to Congress, according to the Associated Press.
The move would potentially pit her against Republican Rep. Steve King, a well-known conservative who is allied with the Tea Party. The five-term Republican is known for his sometimes controversial remarks, such as his comment last year that President Obama's policies or his characterization of a health care vote as an " ."
Tom Vilsack told state Democratic lawmakers on Monday that if his wife were to run, "it will be a holy war," the Register reported.
King currently represents the fifth district, but after the state's redistricting, he will now be running in the new fourth district, which encompasses about half of his current district. The new fourth district appears to be more politically-competitive than King's old district, but Republicans are still calling Vilsack too liberal to win.
"Considering Vilsack's support for the government takeover of healthcare she will fit right in with liberal Nancy Pelosi's big government and spending agenda," Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the Register.
Vilsack would also apparently have to contend with outside conservative groups. Chris Chocola, president of the influential conservative group Club for Growth, warned against what he called the Vilsacks' "fatwah" against Steve King (a reference to Tom Vilsack's "holy war" comment).
"Steve King has consistently stood up for the principles of economic freedom that create jobs and opportunity for Iowans," Chocola said. "The people of Iowa are lucky to have him representing them in Congress."