Staff Columnist

In Iowa, Republicans and editorial boards finally find common ground

Opinion pages react to Democrat Rita Hart's misconceived election challenge

Rita Hart answers a question during a debate with  Mariannette Miller-Meeks moderated by The Gazette's James Q. Lynch an
Rita Hart answers a question during a debate with Mariannette Miller-Meeks moderated by The Gazette's James Q. Lynch and KCRG's Chris Earl at KCRG studios in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

A favorite talking point for Iowa Republicans this election season was that the media is biased against them.

But in the aftermath of these contentious contests, Republicans and opinion writers found common ground in rejecting the unusual appeal being pushed by Iowa Democrat Rita Hart.

Hart lost by a painfully narrow six-vote margin to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks in official results certified by the state. Rather than pursue a legal challenge in Iowa, Hart plans to contest the results in the U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats. Commentators are not taking kindly to it.

Everywhere except the most partisan corners of political commentary, Hart’s overture to House Democrats was swiftly rebuffed. Even the newspaper editorial boards that endorsed Democrats in the general election are skeptical of her political maneuvering.

The Gazette editorial board, of which I am a member, endorsed Democrats up and down the ballot this year, including Hart. But we were uneasy with her decision to forego an Iowa election challenge in favor of a congressional one.

“Hart’s decision is perfectly legal, although we’re wary of putting the final result in the hands of Hart’s fellow partisans,” we wrote.

Likewise, the Quad City Times editorial board endorsed Hart but took issue with her election contest.

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“How are those issues sorted out? And who makes those calls? We think it should be Iowans, not politicians in Washington, D.C.” Quad City Times journalists wrote.

Across the Missouri River, the Omaha World Herald did not make endorsements in Iowa races, but endorsed Joe Biden and mostly Democrats in its local state legislative elections. Its editorial board waded into Iowa politics to say Hart should accept the election results.

“The cynicism and paranoia are already thick enough, without the House dusting off an archaic means to exert political muscle,” World Herald staffers wrote.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, the top purveyor of anti-journalist sentiment in Iowa, cashed in on the trend when he noticed an MSNBC pundit criticizing Hart’s move.

“Even the extreme left think what [Hart] is doing to undermine Iowans’ votes is wrong,” Kaufmann wrote in a retweet of TV news personality Chris Hayes.

Kaufmann and the Iowa GOP, for the record, are supporting Texas’s cockamamie legal challenge to overturn Biden’s victory. They honor one election result while baselessly disputing another.

There are bugs in Iowa’s counting and recount processes, which demand scrutiny and were only exposed because the results were so close. Still, Hart could have made a token effort at exhausting her legal remedies in Iowa before pleading to Democrats in Washington, D.C.

Turn out the lights, the Grand Old Party’s over

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Iowa election challenge is about to make U.S. politics a whole lot stupider

The truth is many journalists do lean left, but most strive for partisan balance, even on the opinion page. Iowa Republicans have made it extremely difficult to provide balance.

No Republican earned The Gazette’s endorsements this year largely because they refused to meet with the editorial board. Out of more than a dozen contested races, just one Republican for local office agreed to chat. Kaufmann has openly encouraged Republicans to decline our invitations.

Hart was not particularly impressive in her meeting with the editorial board, but there wasn’t much of a choice to be made since Miller-Meeks refused to meet with us.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, as some sports guy once said.

Journalists will not reduce ourselves to coddling Republicans in order to earn their favor, but we are prepared to criticize Democrats when they deserve it. Republicans should take note and stop playing the victim card.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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