Government

Miller-Meeks kicks off race for Iowa's 2nd District

She joins GOP campaign for seat held by retiring Loebsack

Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa
Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa

WEST DES MOINES — Voters are feeling “tremendous angst” while waiting for Congress to get to work on health care, trade and other issues that impact them, according to state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who is kicking off her campaign for the U.S. House from Iowa’s 2nd District.

“People are looking for answers,” Miller-Meeks said in explaining why she’s seeking the Republican nomination in the 24-county southeast Iowa district that includes Johnson County.

Nearly 10 years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Miller-Meeks said, voters are troubled that health care issues haven’t been solved. Congress talks about lower health care and prescription drug prices, but voters don’t see any relief, she said.

Instead, she said, Democratic presidential candidates who talk about taking away private health insurance and impeaching the president frustrate voters.

“People want to get ahead, they want government that can be trusted and accountable,” she said Monday. “There’s been such an erosion in our faith in institutions and our faith in government. People who have real-world experience, who have struggled, who have been knocked down and get back up, who keep trying, are raising a family, trying to make ends meet don’t want the same politics as usual.”

Miller-Meeks — who served 24 years in the Army, including nine years active duty, has owned a private practice, taught at the university level, oversaw the Iowa Department of Public Health and is in her first term in the Iowa Senate — believes she has that real-world experience.

Among the priorities for the 64-year-old ophthalmologist are continuing to grow the economy so government can “tackle the big problems” such as health care, the environment and poverty.

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She wants Congress to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, move to lower prescription drug costs and improve skills training and work apprenticeships.

This is not her first run for Congress. She challenged Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack in 2008, 2010 and 2014, losing all three times. However, in 2020 it will be an open-seat race because Loebsack, of Iowa City, is retiring.

It appears both parties will have primary contests to determine their nominees. Bobby Schilling, a former U.S. House member from Illinois, has been campaigning for the GOP nomination.

Democrats Rita Hart, a former state senator from Wheatland and Fred Hubbell’s lieutenant governor candidate in 2018, and Iowa City transportation engineer Newman Abuissa are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Miller-Meeks knows it be an uphill battle as Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 2nd District by nearly 25,000 voters. There are 170,566 Democrats registered in the 2nd and 145,631 Republicans. Another 212,474 voters were registered as no party or other in September, according to the Secretary of State registration report.

Despite the disparity, the open-seat race is rated a tossup by the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections. The district went for Barack Obama by double digits in 2008 and 2012, but Donald Trump carried it by 4 points in 2016 while Loebsack was winning reelection with 51 percent of the vote. In 2018, he captured 53.8 percent.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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