April 14, 2021

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Iowa Democrat Rita Hart withdraws election challenge to six-vote congressional loss

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Iowa Democrat Rita Hart announced Wednesday she is withdrawing her challenge to U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

Hart had asked the U.S. House to review the outcome, which was decided by a razor-thin margin of six votes. But Republicans mounted a public pressure campaign calling it an attempt to “steal” the election, and they promised to make it an election issue for moderate and vulnerable Democrats across the country.

“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 in a statement announcing the decision. “It is a stain on our democracy that the truth has not prevailed and my hope for the future is a return to decency and civility.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee began airing ads this week targeting Iowa’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, over the issue. And U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy traveled to Iowa Wednesday to show support for Miller-Meeks and to publicly criticize Democrats’ attempts to challenge the election results.

More:In Davenport, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy tells Democrats ‘it’s time to move on’ from Iowa’s 2nd District challenge

“It’s time to move on,” he told a group of supporters at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Davenport.

A district-wide recount showed Miller-Meeks won the race by just six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, the tightest margin of any U.S. election since 1974. A bipartisan state panel certified the results in January.

At issue were 22 ballots that Hart’s campaign alleged were legally cast but not properly counted that would have put her ahead. Rather than take the issue through the Iowa courts, Hart filed a petition with the House Committee on Administration in Congress.

“You or I — ordinary citizens — if we had a grievance, we’d have to go through court to settle that grievance, we couldn’t go to a member of Congress and say, ‘You know, I didn’t like the results they counted and counted and recounted — it didn’t come out the way I want — so can a partisan political process body overturn that result?’ ” Miller-Meeks said in Davenport.

Iowa City Press-Citizen reporter Zachary Oren-Smith contributed to this report. 

Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at bpfann@dmreg.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.

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