CARROLL, Iowa | It didn't matter that there was a new congressional district in 2012. Enough Iowans embraced Republican Steve King on Tuesday to return him to a sixth term in the U.S. House.
King, a representative from Kiron, defeated Democrat Christie Vilsack, a former Iowa first lady who lives in Ames, to win the Iowa 4th congressional district seat.
With 89 percent of precincts reporting, King got 55 percent of the vote and Vilsack received 43 percent.
Speaking to an energized crowd in Carroll, King said he had persevered in spite of millions of attack ads against him.
"We all came together and said, 'Iowa stands for something. Northern and western Iowa stands for something,' and it is God and country and life and marriage and the Constitution and free enterprise," he said.
He said he will work hard beginning in 2013.
"This is about restoring our American Dream. Plank No. 1, and it is going to be hard to do now, Plank No. 1 is repealing ObamaCare. Plank No. 2 is a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution," King said.
Earlier, at a Vilsack victory party in Ames, the mood among the 400 or so who gathered moved from elation at news that Barack Obama had won reelection to subdued quiet when Vilsack took the stage shortly after 11 p.m. to concede the race to King.
“I’m Atticus Finch,” Vilsack said in her concession speech, referring to the attorney in the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” who takes on a case despite the likelihood that he’ll lose.
The book, she said, was one of her favorites growing up and one she read to her boys as they reached their teens. Sons Doug and Jess joined Vilsack on stage as did husband, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsack said she wouldn’t have run the race any differently than she did and said that King must stop being as divisive and work for the people of the 4th district.
“I ran a race that was me,” she said after the speech. “I had the opportunity to run the perfect race and define who I am and I articulated what I wanted to do with the job and how I wanted to expand the job."
She did not rule out another run for office.
“I have no idea,” she said. “I’ve just been living day to day and my goal was to win this race … and now, we’ll figure out what we’ll do next.”
The race was one of the most observed nationally, given that a sitting representative who hews to the conservative playbook and has a penchant for controversial statements was running against a highly-regarded former first lady who proved to be a formidable fundraiser.
Democrats hoped that with a new congressional district layout, they'd have a chance to oust King, who rolled to five easy victories previously.
King has represented Iowa's 5th District since January 2003. The state lost a district following the 2010 U.S Census count, and the new 4th District is the largest in Iowa, stretching across Northwest and North Central. The North Central counties have not be represented by King previously, and when the two-year term begins on January 2013 he will no longer represent a tier of Southwest Iowa counties.
The Nov. 1 voting registration totals for the 4th District included 182,313 Republicans, 131,917 Democrats and 174,857 Independents.
-- Journal Des Moines bureau chief Mike Wiser contributed to this report.