ELECTION 2020

Miller-Meeks holds razor-thin margin over Hart in Iowa House 2 race

Rita Hart and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Iowa U.S. House District 2 election 2020
Rita Hart and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Iowa U.S. House District 2 election 2020
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Mariannette Miller-Meeks secured victory in Iowa’s second congressional district by an incredibly slim margin.

With 100 percent of Iowa’s precincts reporting, Miller-Meeks, a Republican state senator from Ottumwa, claimed 50.04 percent of the vote. Former state senator Rita Hart, of Wheatland, finished with 49.96 percent of the vote.

Fewer than 300 votes separated the challengers. The Gazette and Associated Press have not called the race.

» ELECTION RESULTS: See the results for Iowa races and keep up with the presidential race

About an hour and a half after the polls closed, Hart had held a 13-point lead in the 2nd Congressional District over Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa. The early results showed 11 of 24 counties in the district reporting.

“As we see right now, Mariannette Miller-Meeks is closing the gap on Rita Hart’s early lead,” Eric Woolson, a consultant with the Miller-Meeks campaign said. “We’ll see how things work out.”

And they worked out much better for Miller-Meeks as the night went on. As was the theme with the rest of the night in Iowa and much of the nation, the Democratic lead set by early voting did not hold. The vote total was 196,769 to 196,487, in unofficial results.

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Hart beat Miller-Meeks in heavily Democratic Johnson County with nearly 70 percent of the vote there, but the Miller-Meeks campaign said that was what they expected.

“The 30 percent in Johnson County was our target,” Woolson said. “We thought that was what we needed to win.”

With such a close margin of victory, a recount could be possible. Hart’s campaign could not be reached late Tuesday for comment.

Regardless of the outcome, there will be a new member of Congress.

The candidates were vying for the seat that Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is stepping away from after serving seven terms.

Miller-Meeks ran unsuccessfully against Loebsack in 2008, 2010 and 2014.

She is a practicing ophthalmologist in Ottumwa, the former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health and a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.

Hart served in the Iowa State Senate from 2013 to 2019. In 2018, she was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell’s running mate.

Hart is a former teacher. She and her husband own and operate a family farm in Wheatland.

Hart’s campaign outraised and outspent Miller-Meeks’ campaign by more than a 2-1 margin, according the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

Hart raised $3.6 million and spent just over $3 million, while Miller-Meeks raised $1.5 million and spent nearly $1.3 million.

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The spending totals are in addition to the more than $15 million in outside spending that was evenly split between the two candidates.

Tom Barton of the Quad City Times contributed to this report.

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