Top Iowa Republicans have established a clear favorite in the race to turn the 2nd Congressional District red.
State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa was endorsed Monday by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, marking Miller-Meeks’ most high profile endorsement to date.
“Mariannette will be a strong voice for Iowans in Congress and is someone they can count on to work on issues that matter to them: jobs, trade, cutting government spending, reducing taxes, and more affordable and accessible health care,” Ernst said in a press release. “Mariannette energizes voters with her enthusiasm, determination and her commitment to continuing to improve the daily lives of folks across the Second District, our state and country.”
Ernst also has expressed her support for 3rd District candidate David Young and 1st District candidate Ashley Hinson, a state representative from Marion. Last summer, Ernst said she would not issue an endorsement in the 4th District race where Steve King is the incumbent congressman.
Of Ernst’s endorsement, Miller-Meeks said: “Joni Ernst has been a role model and an inspiration for women in Iowa and across the country. Her endorsement, especially to run on the same ballot with her, is one that I accept with great pride and appreciation.”
In addition to Ernst, Miller-Meeks also was endorsed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, former Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and more than two dozen state legislators.
The first-term state senator is working to take on Democrat Rita Hart in the fall in order to win the Eastern Iowa seat left open by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack’s retirement at the end of the year.
In supporting Miller-Meeks, Iowa’s Republican establishment largely has rejected her primary opponent, Bobby Schilling.
Schilling, a former Illinois congressman who now lives in Le Claire, is met with some skepticism for crossing state lines to make another run at the U.S. House of Representatives.
In addition to the endorsement tracker, he also lags behind Miller-Meeks in fundraising.
Even though Miller-Meeks has been in the race less time than Schilling, she still out-raised him in 2019, bringing in $259,945 compared to his $80,857.
Though Schilling does not have the high profile endorsements that Miller-Meeks enjoys, he has received some financial support from former colleagues in Congress, including $2,000 from Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood’s Abraham Lincoln PAC and $1,500 from Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly’s Keep America Rolling PAC.
To give himself a chance at the nomination, Schilling is leaning into his conservative credentials, challenging Miller-Meeks on abortion and reminding voters about the “Great Pretender Award” she received from Iowa Right to Life in 2008.
But with Miller-Meeks in the Iowa Legislature, she will have ample opportunity this year to take votes opposing abortion access. Last week, she joined her Republican colleagues in the Senate to pass a proposed constitutional amendment stating that the Iowa Constitution does not protect women’s right to an abortion.
By Elizabeth Meyer