Two TV ads playing in Eastern Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race go to great lengths to make their points, and one faults the Democratic candidate for supporting a Republican-sponsored bill.
Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks are running in the open-seat races created by the retirement of seven-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack.
Most political forecasters consider the race competitive. While the seat has been in Democratic hands for more than a decade, Republican President Donald Trump carried the district in 2016.
An ad produced by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of U.S. House Republicans, criticizes Hart for her vote in the Iowa Legislature in support of a 2018 bill that allowed organizations in the state to create health care plans not subject to state and federal regulations.
Because such plans would not face regulation, they could avoid federal requirements like the one in the Affordable Care Act that says insurance companies cannot reject individuals with preexisting conditions.
The ad criticizes Hart for supporting the bill that allowed those plans not to cover people with preexisting conditions after she had accepted a political contribution from Wellmark, the insurance company that partnered with the Iowa Farm Bureau in proposing the bill.
The national Republican criticism of Hart’s support for the bill is unusual, given that the bill was proposed and supported largely by Iowa Republicans. Hart was one of five Democratic state senators to vote for its passage.
Ashley Hinson, a Republican former state legislator running for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District who has been receiving support from the NRCC, also voted in favor of the bill, and also received political donations from Wellmark.
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An NRCC spokesman did not answer emailed questions about the ad, including why the organization chose to criticize Hart for a vote one of its candidates also took. The spokesman responded with a statement accusing Democrats of being hypocritical by running ads against Miller-Meeks on the issue of health care and preexisting conditions.
A spokesman for Miller-Meeks’ campaign on Wednesday declined to say whether Miller-Meeks, a state legislator who was not in office when the bill was debated, would have voted for the Republican-led proposal, and declined to comment on the ad because it was not produced by the Miller-Meeks’ campaign.
An ad that was produced by the Miller-Meeks’ campaign accuses “liberal politicians in Washington” of failing to protect Americans from the COVID-19 pandemic, citing protracted debate between Republicans and Democrats in Congress over federal pandemic relief bills.
The ad lumps Hart into that allegation, even though Hart was a state legislator from 2013 to 2018 and has never served in Congress.
The ad accuses Democrats and Hart of playing politics and refusing “to hold China accountable” and doing “nothing to stop viruses from Asia.”
To support the allegation against Hart, the ad cites her vote against a 2018 state budget bill, House File 2491.
The budget bill contained $4.1 million for Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The lab “provides quality diagnostic services for animal species,” according to its website.
The lab is helping to process COVID-19 tests on the ISU campus and has collaborated with the State Hygienic Lab to expand capacity, an ISU spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for the Miller-Meeks campaign said Hart’s vote against the state budget bill is worth highlighting because viruses like the coronavirus originate in animals. Experts agree the novel coronavirus appears to have origins in bats.
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The 2018 budget bill also included $250,000 for the state’s foreign animal disease program, which by state law must be used to address livestock diseases.
“The money is intended to be used to prepare for and respond to foreign animal diseases, for example, African Swine Fever, Avian Influenza or Foot-and-mouth disease,” a state ag department spokeswoman said.
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