SIOUX CITY | The 2016 election for Iowa's 4th congressional district is still 17 months away.
But so far, no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge incumbent Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron.
Democratic Party leaders this week said they've heard rumors of people who are thinking about a bid, but they did not share any names of potential candidates.
As for King, he plans to run for an eighth term.
"I expect to run for re-election to the House in 2016. I love my work and the people I serve," he said in a statement to the Journal.
In the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, the Democrats who ran against and ultimately lost to King announced their candidacies by July the year before. Democratic leaders said there is still plenty of time for the field to form before the filing deadline for the primary elections in June 2016.
Cerro Gordo Democratic Party Chairman John Stone, of Mason City, said Democrats who want to run should officially get in the game by fall.
"It is going to be a thing this time, that I don't think you will see them enter the race until late summer, early fall. That gives them a year," Stone said.
Woodbury County Democratic Party Chairwoman Penny Rosfjord, of Sioux City, prefers an earlier launch.
"If they are serious about running, sooner is better than later. It takes a lot of time and a lot of money. ... You have an incumbent congressman, it takes a lot of groundwork," Rosfjord said.
However, Sioux County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kim Van Es said a January 2016 launch would work fine because voters get fatigue when campaigns go too long.
"Let us get through the holidays," Van Es said.
The 4th District covers 39 counties in Northwest and north central Iowa. Sioux City is the largest city in the district.
Elsewhere in Iowa, in the 1st District, Monica Vernon, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, announced in January she is a candidate to unseat Rod Blum, R-Dubuque. Others in the 1st and 3rd districts have also said they may run. Former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver is investigating a 3rd District bid.
The King foe who announced earliest in an election cycle was Rob Hubler of Council Bluffs. Hubler announced his candidacy on March 27, 2007, more than 19 months before the 2008 election.
In the last 4th District cycle, Jim Mowrer announced his candidacy on July 2, 2013. In the election cycle before that, former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack joined the congressional race on July 19, 2011. Ahead of that, Vilsack raised $424,000 in the fundraising quarter from March through June 2011, effectively engaging in the contest months ahead of her official announcement.
In the former Iowa 5th District, King won substantial victories over Democrats Paul Shomshor in 2002, Joyce Schulte in 2004 and 2006, Hubler in 2008 and Matt Campbell in 2010. The current 4th District, created after 2011 reapportionment, dropped southwest counties and added a tier of north-central counties.
Mowrer has moved since 2014 from Boone into the 3rd congressional district, so he won't be vying with King again.
King has never faced a candidate who was a sitting Iowa Legislature member. Stone and O'Brien County Chairwoman Kim Weaver, of Sheldon, said candidates don't need a legislative background to excel.
Van Es and Rosfjord said a person with legislative experience could have a leg up, since he or she would have built relationships that would be helpful in winning a campaign. Weaver said a moderate Democrat with "a reasonable voice" would perhaps fit the district best, since Republicans rule in the number of registered voters.
Webster County Democratic Party Chairwoman Julie Goepfert, of Fort Dodge, said the key for Democratic candidates is to point to King's voting record, which she said runs counter to the needs of working class families.
Stone said he's heard from two Democrats who may run. He said one or more could announce for the 4th District race at the Aug. 14 Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.
Stone remains hopeful that a Democratic challenger can unseat King, even though the current number of registered Republicans in the 4th District greatly surpasses the number of Democrats, with 176,550 compared to 119,304. He thought Vilsack and Mowrer had good chances.
"The tide was against us (in 2014), but that doesn't mean it will be next time. There is a first time for everything, and we are just going to try again with the candidates we have," Stone said.