Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rep. Miller-Meeks to leave Ottumwa, run in newly-redrawn 1st Congressional District

Kate Payne
Republican Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks announced her plans to run in the newly redrawn 1st District at a press conference on Wednesday.

Republican Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks has announced she will move from her home in Ottumwa to run in Iowa's newly redrawn 1st Congressional District.

Her decision puts an end to speculation around whether she would challenge Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne in the new 3rd District.

Miller-Meeks had a decision to make after her home in Wapello County was redrawn into the 3rd District, which is currently represented by Axne, the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation. Miller-Meeks’ announcement Wednesday means she will avoid what likely would’ve been a competitive and closely-watched race.

At a press conference at the Dahl Old Car Home in Davenport Wednesday, Miller-Meeks announced she’ll move into the new 1st District, which covers much of her current territory in the southeast corner of the state.

Credit Iowa Legislative Services Agency
Iowa's newly redrawn Congressional district maps, created by a nonpartisan state agency, have been approved by state lawmakers and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and will go into effect for the 2022 election cycle.

“My connection to this district is extremely strong. And I never wanted people in this district to feel that I was betraying them,” Miller-Meeks said. “People in Wapello County and in Iowa know that I will take them with me and I will advocate [for] them and I will be their voice regardless of what district I continue to represent.”

The Army veteran and ophthalmologist said she has strong ties to the new 1st District, which spans a majority of the counties she currently represents, noting she graduated from and taught at the University of Iowa and practiced medicine in West Burlington. The new district includes seven Mississippi River counties, the Democratic strongholds of Iowa City and Davenport, and stretches west into some suburbs of Des Moines.

Miller-Meeks told reporters she hasn’t decided where she’ll live in the new district or whether she’ll sell her old home.

“Where my physical location is is less important than who I’m serving. And that the people in this district know that I’m serving them,” Miller-Meeks said. “I have a very long relationship with people in the 2nd District. I’ve worked with them, I’ve been with them, I’ve supported these businesses.”

Miller-Meeks made national news when she was first elected in Congress in 2020, withstanding a challenge of the outcome by her competitor former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart and ultimately winning by a mere six votes, one of the closest races in congressional history. The district, which had been represented by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack for 14 years, was considered the state’s most reliably Democratic until Miller-Meeks flipped it.

Heading into 2022, she faces challengers from the left and the right, in Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannan and Republican Kyle Kuehl, a businessman and first-time candidate from Bettendorf. In a statement Wednesday, Bohannan said she welcomes Miller-Meeks to the race and took the opportunity to criticize the congresswoman’s recent vote against the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

“While she's been weighing her political prospects, and voting against bipartisan infrastructure improvements for Iowa, I've been traveling throughout Iowa's first Congressional district meeting voters where they're at. It's been an honor to hear from folks about the issues that matter most to them -- including fixing our roads and bridges, creating good-paying jobs, supporting small business, and improving our education and health care,” Bohannan said in a written statement. “One thing is clear: Southeastern Iowans want a Congressional representative who values truth, integrity, and will put delivering results for the people of Iowa above divisive partisan politics."

From locks and dams to broadband to drinking water systems, business owners, interest groups and advocates have long called for robust infrastructure investments in Iowa, which has more structurally deficient bridges than almost anywhere else in the country, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

Asked Wednesday about her vote against the infrastructure plan, Miller-Meeks said Americans are already facing too many financial burdens associated with the pandemic and the recent rise in inflation.

“I cannot vote for a reconciliation bill that’s going to cost more jobs, continue to increase inflation and continue to put increased taxes on local individuals,” Miller-Meeks said.

NPR has reported the package will be paid for in a number of ways, including through unspent COVID-19 relief funds and beefing up tax enforcement of cryptocurrencies. The Wall Street Journal has reported economists expect the infrastructure spending will create thousands of new jobs and boost productivity, and isn’t likely to increase inflationary pressures.

Miller-Meeks’ decision to run in the 1st District also means one less challenger in the Republican primary for the 3rd District, where former state Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, financial services worker Nicole Hasso and state Sen. Zach Nunn have declared their candidacies against Axne.

When asked why she didn’t choose to run in the 3rd District, Miller-Meeks said it wasn’t due to any reservations about challenging the Democratic congresswoman, saying she ultimately determined the southeast Iowa district would be a better fit.

“I had people in the 3rd District who wanted me to run there. A lot of people. A lot of people in the 1st District. But I think that it’s the right decision to me. I think it’s the right decision for our district,” she said. “It feels right.”

For her part, Miller-Meeks says she welcomes challengers in the 1st District race and looks forward to running on a platform that she says prioritizes economic development, educational opportunity and limits the scope of the federal government, touting her opposition to vaccine mandates even as she herself has administered vaccines throughout the 2nd District. Heading into 2022, Miller-Meeks says it’s safe to say she hopes to run a race that’s not as close as last cycle’s.

“The goal is to win by more than six votes,” Miller-Meeks said.