Former state Rep. Phil Miller launched his candidacy Wednesday morning for a second chance to represent southeast Iowa’s House District 82.
Miller, a veterinarian and small business owner from Fairfield, was ousted in 2018 after serving less than a full term. In a surprise victory, which included a recount requested by Miller, Republican Jeff Shipley won the Southeast Iowa seat by 37 votes.
“We need someone who will go to Des Moines and fight for strong public education funding, better paying jobs, and affordable healthcare,” said Miller, in a statement.
Miller was first elected to represent the district in a hard-fought August 2017 special election. At the time, it was seen as a good omen for Democrats, winning a seat that Donald Trump had just carried the previous year by 22 points.
He replaced Democratic Rep. Curt Hanson of Fairfield, who died in June 2017. Republican efforts to make the election about transgender Iowans’ use of bathrooms backfired badly in that race.
District 82 includes Van Buren and Davis counties and most of Jefferson County, which is home to Fairfield.
Neither party spent much money in the 2018 race, though Shipley, who backed Ron Paul in 2012, did get significant funding for a field operation through a Libertarian organization.
“As a small business owner, I understand the challenges our main streets, farmers, and communities face everyday,” Miller said. “I’ll work across the aisle to cut through the noise and focus on the issues that matter: helping our kids get ahead and keeping our rural communities prosperous.”
The incumbent Shipley, though newly elected, turned heads at the Capitol in his first term as a state legislator, introducing bills to legalize psychedelic mushrooms for medicinal use.
He also opposed extending the popular penny sales tax for school infrastructure projects, and was the only legislator to vote against a transportation equity bill intended to help rural districts like Shipley’s cover the cost of busing students to and from school.
Shipley snuck up on Miller and Democrats in the 2018 race in part thanks to his ties to the transcendental meditation community. With the Maharishi university in Fairfield, there’s a large voter base there that usually votes for Democrats, but will often flock to an outsider-type candidate regardless of party.
With Miller’s announcement, more top legislative races in Southeast Iowa are beginning to take shape.
On Friday, former state Sen. Tom Courtney of Burlington announced his candidacy to retake his old seat in District 44. His primary opponent, Rex Troute, launched his campaign early in August. Republican Sen. Tom Greene, who won the seat over Courtney in 2016, has yet to announce whether he will run for re-election.
By Elizabeth Meyer