When Republican Bobby Schilling announced his candidacy for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, he was the only GOP candidate in the race.
Now, the former Illinois congressman faces a primary challenger in state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa. Though Schilling has experience in the U.S. House of Representatives, he largely is seen as the outsider in this race because he is new to the district.
The two are members of the same party, but their political personalities and messaging has differed in the early stages of the race to replace outgoing Congressman Dave Loebsack.
The Daily Iowan said Schilling “hopes to appeal to a Republican base in the primary by focusing on abortion and second amendment issues.”
According to the University of Iowa’s student newspaper, “He challenged Miller-Meeks’ conservative record on those issues, describing himself as more of a ‘constitutionalist’ candidate.”
Schilling often notes the importance of conservative, Christian family values — he has 10 children — and how he is the most pro-life candidate in the congressional race.
Planned Parenthood is doing everything they can to push more abortions in Iowa. I’m the only candidate in the race who’s been endorsed by the National Right to Life & Susan B. Anthony list. In Congress I’ll be one of the strongest defenders of life. #IA02 https://t.co/W8fHjSFCQR
— Bobby Schilling (@BobbySchilling) November 26, 2019
“I definitely support the heartbeat bill,” Schilling said, in a Nov. 8 episode of the Caffeinated Thoughts Podcast. “I think that at conception, that is a life.”
Miller-Meeks, elected to represent Iowa Senate District 41 in 2018, was challenged in the past about her beliefs on abortion.
This race for the 2nd District seat marks her fourth attempt at election to the U.S. House.
During her 2008 campaign, a newsletter from Iowa Right to Life gave Miller-Meeks its “Great Pretender Award,” alleging she was “pro-abortion and believes in birth control education over abstinence-only.”
The award was linked to a quote in a 2008 Burlington Hawk Eye article, in which Miller-Meeks said “people should have access to information, which includes abstinence and other means of birth control.”
According to The Hawk Eye, “Miller-Meeks said because it’s a judicial issue there is nothing she can do as a lawmaker to stop abortion, but she can make it easier to support families.”
Miller-Meeks was not a member of the Iowa Legislature in 2017 when Republicans passed legislation banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected, but she did vote in 2019 to bar Planned Parenthood from applying for certain federal grants for sex education, as part of a bill to fund the Health and Human Services department.
When asked to clarify her views on abortion and respond to Schilling’s criticism, a spokesman for Miller-Meeks’ campaign did not address the Iowa Right to Life newsletter.
“Iowans expect their candidates to tell the truth. That’s something Bobby Schilling apparently didn’t understand when he broke his promise to Illinois voters that he’d never leave their state,” said campaign spokesman Eric Woolson. “He may have moved here recently in the desperate hope of resurrecting his failed political career, but he should leave his Illinois-style dirty politics on the other side of the Mississippi River.”
So far, Miller-Meeks appears to be assembling a coalition of establishment Republicans backing her candidacy, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, former Gov. Terry Branstad and state Sen. Tom Greene of Burlington.
Schilling’s faith and family values are central to his campaign.
Shortly after he launched his candidacy in July, Schilling posted to Facebook: “I was asked why I was running for Congress. I had a simple answer: Because I love my God, Family and Country and all three are under attack from the Democratic Party. We can’t sit back and let it happen. My 13 grandkids deserve better than #TheSquad.”
The landing page for Miller-Meeks’ website says “Iowa Conservative” and describes her as “A Conservative Fighter.”
To combat the criticism she faced from Iowa Right to Life, Woolson in 2008 told the Quad-City Times Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist, was anti-abortion and condoned the procedure only in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life was in danger.
For his part, Schilling will not shy away from controversial social beliefs in the 2nd District primary.
In the Caffeinated Thoughts interview, one of the first questions Shane Vander Hart asked Schilling was about “the transgender issue.”
Conservative groups like the American Principles Project, led by Schilling’s son, Terry Schilling, are ginning up fear of transgender children joining sports teams that don’t align with their physical sex.
There is no evidence to suggest the participation of transgender children in sports is a widespread issue affecting the fairness of play.
“You know, I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, but this is something that needs to be addressed,” Bobby Schilling told Vander Hart. “I don’t know who out there thinks that it’s fair that a young man can run in a track meet or any sport against my daughter and take away scholarships and things like that.”
By Elizabeth Meyer