Iowa secretary of state looks to raise campaign cash from 2nd District contest

By: - March 29, 2021 5:27 pm

Republican Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks, right, tours Weiler Products in Knoxville with company President Pat Weiler before the November election. (Photo courtesy of The Concept Works Inc.)

Republicans on Monday moved to raise money and political capital with their reactions to the fight over Iowa’s prized House seat in the 2nd District. 

GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks was seated conditionally in January after state officials certified her six-vote win in the November election.

Former Iowa Sen. Rita Hart, a Democrat, ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat. (Photo courtesy of Hart campaign)

Democrat Rita Hart, citing at least 22 uncounted, legal votes, appealed the results to the House Administration Committee, which is controlled by Democrats. She argued that her other choice, appealing to a panel of judges in Iowa, wouldn’t leave enough time for a full investigation, under limits set by state law. 

The contest isn’t only about deciding who will represent southeastern Iowa. With Democrats holding a narrow margin in the chamber, every seat counts.

On Monday, the race, which has drawn coverage from a range of national outlets,  featured a new series of volleys from the GOP. 

  • Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate asked for donations in a “stop Pelosi” email message.
  • The Iowa Republican Party pressured Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne to oppose the House appeal.
  • First-year GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson called the appeal to the Democratically controlled House panel  “abhorrent.”

Pate said the fight is a clear indication of the importance of his job and keeping him in it.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate speaks at a news conference on election results in Jasper County on Nov. 6, 2020. (Screen shot from event livestream)

“If this tragedy doesn’t underscore how much it matters who our Iowa secretary of state is, I don’t know what does,” Pate said in the message. “Just imagine if there was a liberal Democrat sitting in the Iowa SOS office who was willing to ignore the will of the people and walk in lock step with (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi!

 “I know the liberals have targeted my defeat as a top priority. Can I count on your support of $5, $15, $35 or $100?” Pate concluded.

Hinson, who took office in January, said Miller-Meeks won the election. She added that the tight race showed “votes matter.”

“It’s abhorrent that six Democrats in Congress could override the votes of six Iowans who decided this election,” Hinson said in a statement, referring to the committee of six Democrats and three Republicans.  “The votes were counted, they were recounted, and certified by a bipartisan group in Iowa. 

“States certify elections, not Congress,” Hinson said. “They didn’t get the outcome they wanted so they’re trying this avenue instead. I think it’s just a disservice to the voters of the country. How are we supposed to be having faith in our vote if any time the majority party is in power they can control the outcome of these elections?  Votes matter. Elections matter. That is exactly what we saw in Iowa. It was certified and (Mariannette Miller-Meeks) is the congresswoman.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. (Photo submitted by Ashley Hinson campaign)

Hinson’s statement misspelled the name of her GOP colleague as “Marianette Miller-Meek.”

The Iowa Republican Party sent out a statement, under the headline, “When does Axne’s hall pass end?” The state GOP took  Axne to task for not opposing the appeal to the House committee.

The Iowa GOP noted that three House Democrats, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Chris Pappas of New Jersey and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, have questioned reversing the certified results from the state. A fourth, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, expressed “deep reservations.”

The GOP release noted Axne has referred multiple questioners to her Dec. 22 statement, which didn’t specifically discuss the merits of the committee appeal versus Iowa courts. A spokesman for Axne did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday.

In her previous statement, Axne said Hart “has constitutional and legal grounds to pursue that goal at the federal level.”

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, addresses the Greater Des Moines Partnership on Oct. 8, 2020. (Screenshot of Greater Des Moines Partnership online session)

“How long does Axne get a pass from answering a simple question — does she agree and will she vote to overturn the votes of Iowans and side with Nancy Pelosi?” Iowa GOP spokesman Kollin Crompton asked in a statement.

Pelosi, D-California, had hinted there would be some kind of interim decision on Monday about continuing the education, but the committee quickly corrected that. A Hart spokesman said no action was expected until later.

In related news, Hart filed another brief repeating her view that all legally cast votes should be counted.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.