Government

Branstads back Miller-Meeks for Congress

Candidates vie to replace retiring Loebsack

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

CEDAR RAPIDS — Second District congressional hopeful Mariannette Miller-Meeks has landed the support of one of the most well-connected families in Iowa Republican politics.

Eric Branstad announced Monday that he and his father, Terry Branstad, the longest-serving governor in American history and currently ambassador to China, are backing Miller-Meeks in her bid for the 2nd District GOP nomination and for the 2020 general election.

“As I’ve gotten to know Mariannette, she has — similar to my dad — a never-quit attitude,” Eric Branstad said in his endorsement. “My dad always says the harder you work, the luckier you get. Miller-Meeks is the definition of that.”

In this case, luck comes with the financial support of the Branstads, said Eric Branstad, who is the Des Moines managing director of Mercury LLC, a nationwide public relations and fundraising firm. He and his father both wrote checks, but the elder Branstad cannot also — as an ambassador — endorse a candidate.

Miller-Meeks faces LeClaire businessman and former Illinois congressman Bobby Schilling in the contest for the Republican nomination. It will be an open seat because Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa City is retiring.

The GOP nominee will face the winner of a Democratic primary race between Newman Abuissa of Iowa City and Rita Hart of Wheatland. Both parties’ primaries are in June 2020.

In endorsing Miller-Meeks, Eric Branstad, who previously worked for the Donald Trump campaign and administration, called her “absolutely the candidate we need.”

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“I immediately thought defense, agriculture, health, safety,” he said. “This is what makes Miller-Meeks the best and most qualified for the 2nd and for Iowa and for the United States for that matter.”

Miller-Meeks served 24 years in the Army, including nine years of active duty, has owned a private ophthalmology practice, taught at the university level and oversaw the Iowa Department of Public Health. She is now is affiliated with the Great River Medical Center in Burlington and is in her first term as a state senator from Ottumwa.

Miller-Meeks said it was an honor to have the support of the Branstad family. She called Ambassador Branstad someone she looks up to and considers a role model “for all of us both politically and the values that make our country great.”

“When you have one of the most respected political figures in the state and their family supports you, I think it shows other people there’s real credibility in that individual,” Miller-Meeks said. “To me, it’s a deep honor to be supported by the Branstad family. You have to earn it. I will continue to earn it.”

Schilling has a “great deal of respect” for Ambassador Branstad, said his spokesman, Jon Schweppe. Branstad’s support is indicative of the interest in the race among Republicans.

“You’ll see a lot of endorsements because they see this as a tipping-point election,” Schweppe said. “Republicans are excited about Iowa’s 2nd (District) because they see it as a potential pickup to take back the House from ‘the squad.’”

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

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