Democrat Rita Hart withdraws challenge in Iowa 2nd District congressional race

By: - March 31, 2021 3:43 pm

Democrat Rita Hart, who has withdrawn her appeal of results of the 2nd Congressional District election, is shown here during the 2020 campaign outside a school in Bennett, where she once taught. (Photo courtesy of Rita Hart campaign)

WASHINGTON — Democrat Rita Hart in a surprise announcement Wednesday said she’s withdrawing her challenge to the results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, citing a “toxic campaign of political disinformation” as her request for a review of the race’s six-vote margin grew into a nationalized, increasingly partisan dispute.

Hart, who has claimed that 22 ballots in the district were wrongfully uncounted, said in a statement that she filed the challenge petition to ensure “the voices of Iowans who followed the law are not silenced.”

“Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans,” Hart said.

She wished Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks “all the best as she serves the people of this great state.”

Miller-Meeks was provisionally seated in January based on the state-certified results, and has been voting and otherwise representing the district.

“This has been a difficult process for all of those involved, and it’s incredibly important that we work together to reform the system so this does not happen again in the future,” Hart added.

Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks has been seated even as Democrat Rita Hart challenges the election results. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Senate)

Miller-Meeks responded with her own statement thanking Hart for her decision to withdraw.

“I know how extremely difficult it is to lose an election, but for the people to have faith and confidence in the election system and Iowa laws, it was gracious of her to concede at this time,” Miller-Meeks said. “I look forward to continuing to work to represent the people of Iowa’s Second District.”

Hart’s withdrawal resolves a brewing problem for congressional Democrats, who have drawn mounting criticism from Republicans over the election challenge and the ensuing investigation by the House Committee on Administration.

GOP lawmakers have depicted Hart’s decision to forego a review of the results in the Iowa court system and instead seek relief from the Democratic-controlled U.S. House as a partisan attempt to steal a House seat in a chamber where the majority party lost seats in the 2020 election.

Hart and her campaign lawyers have argued that she did not go through the Iowa courts because state law does not offer enough time for a sufficient appeal process.

Hart’s statement of withdrawal came as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was spending the day in Iowa with Miller-Meeks, repeating the party’s critiques of the challenge against her electoral win.

“We are glad Rita Hart finally came to her senses and admitted the truth: the people of Iowa chose Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to represent them in Congress,” said Mike Berg, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which had begun airing ads targeting Iowa’s lone congressional Democrat, Rep. Cindy Axne, over the issue. “We won’t let voters forget that Democrats will do whatever they can to subvert democracy if given the opportunity.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said: “Midwest common sense has again prevailed over party politics in Washington.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has defended the investigation by the House panel, maintaining that the Democratic-controlled chamber is simply following the process spelled out in federal law to review a very narrow electoral margin.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of the House committee that handles challenges to election results, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that with Hart no longer challenging the results, “there is no longer a contest.”

“The committee will, accordingly, recommend that the whole House dispose of the contest and adopt a dismissal resolution reported out by the committee,” Lofgren, a California Democrat, said.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Iowa Capital Dispatch. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.