Iowa Republican appears to flip House seat by six votes

Democrat, who has not conceded, has two days to file legal challenge

State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is one of several GOP women to flip House seats this year.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is one of several GOP women to flip House seats this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 30, 2020 at 5:11pm

In what appears to be another pickup for House Republicans, election officials certified Monday that GOP state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks won Iowa's 2nd District by a mere six votes.

Her Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Rita Hart, has not conceded and could challenge the result in court.

Miller-Meeks initially led by 47 votes, prompting Hart to call for a recount, which shrank Miller-Meeks' margin to just six votes out of the nearly 394,000 cast. Although the State Canvassing Board certified the results Monday, The Associated Press is not expected to declare a winner "until after all legal appeals are exhausted."

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said at the board's meeting late Monday afternoon, "That [2nd District] race alone reinforces that every vote counts and can make a difference."

Hart has two days to file a legal challenge, which would set up a special judicial panel that would have until Dec. 8 to declare a winner, according to the AP. Her campaign has signaled it was considering legal options.

"Under Iowa law, this recount process was designed to count ballots that had already been tallied, meaning that additional legal ballots may have yet to be counted," campaign manager Zach Meunier said in a statement Monday after the certification. "Over the next few days, we will outline our next steps in this process to ensure that all Iowans’ voices are heard.”

Miller-Meeks declared victory on Saturday with the recount showing her ahead by just six votes.

“While the race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner by the state’s Executive Council on Monday," she said in a statement. "It is the honor of a lifetime to be elected to serve the people of eastern and southern Iowa."

The district became a top GOP target after Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who prevailed in tough election cycles including 2010 and 2014, opted to retire. President Donald Trump carried the 2nd District by 4 percentage points in 2016.

Democrats quickly coalesced around Hart, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2018. Miller-Meeks, who challenged Loebsack three times before running for the open seat this year, had to fend off former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling in a primary. Miller-Meeks, a former ophthalmologist, is the former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health and a retired Army reservist.

Miller-Meeks' victory would be the 13th GOP pickup so far this year, and the ninth seat flipped by a Republican woman.

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