Iowa congressional candidate Bobby Schilling on Monday challenged his primary opponent to endorse the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill or exit the race, further escalating the back-and-forth feud with fellow Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
Schilling, one of five Republican candidates running in the 2nd District primary, called on the state senator from Ottumwa to “commit to sponsoring and supporting Rep. Steve King’s Heartbeat Protection Act.”
“If she is unwilling to do that,” Schilling said, Miller-Meeks should “drop out of the race immediately.”
The bill — a version of which Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law in 2018 — makes it illegal for a physician to perform an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. (The law was ruled unconstitutional in 2019 by a district judge and never took effect.)
“The Republican Party is a party that defends life. Period,” Schilling said in a statement. “If Miller-Meeks can’t do that, she needs to step aside for lying so egregiously on such an important issue.”
Schilling’s statement comes on the heels of a 2018 video published over the weekend by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, showing Miller-Meeks describe herself as “Catholic” and “pro-choice.”
“Ultimately, as a doctor and a health care provider, I believe these are decisions that are best left to providers, to doctors and to patients,” Miller-Meeks said, in response to a question about whether she would support rescinding the heartbeat bill if elected to the Iowa Senate. “I don’t want the government in my health care decisions.”
Over the course of the primary contest, Schilling has repeatedly knocked Miller-Meeks on the abortion issue, often referencing the “Great Pretender Award” she received in 2008 from Iowa Right to Life.
“We’re very pro-life,” Schilling said Saturday in a video message with his wife, Christie Schilling. “We don’t like it when candidates come in and pretend like they’re pro-life. It really upsets us. We’d rather have somebody say ‘I’m pro-life’ or ‘I’m pro-choice’ and just take a position, but not try to trick people. It’s very disheartening.”
In a tweet, Schilling called it an “outright lie” that, according to Miller-Meeks’ campaign, she “misspoke” during the 2018 Ottumwa League of Women Voters forum. The forum was conducted when Miller-Meeks was running for a seat in the state Senate.
Schilling also is comparing Miller-Meeks to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, saying they “both are pro-choice and believe that the decision to kill the baby should be left between the physician [and] the patient.”
Though Schilling has lagged behind Miller-Meeks in fundraising and endorsements, he has picked up a couple signs of support from high-profile Republicans in recent weeks, nabbing former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan.
In the first three months of 2020, Miller-Meeks raised $256,374 compared to Schilling’s $18,796.
Miller-Meeks also has not shied away from going negative on her opponent.
Last week on Facebook, Miller-Meeks’ campaign said Schilling was “obsessed with attacking Mariannette” and produced a two-minute video to show “why he’s not conservative and why he threw President Trump under the bus.”
The video was first posted in March along with the website SchillingForVotes.com.
After months of attacks and mistruths coming from Bobby Schilling, we thought the best way to share the truth about him was to let him do it in his own words: https://t.co/HaaQ5W8pRO#ia02 pic.twitter.com/3CqvyX9iJg
— Dr. Miller-Meeks (@millermeeks) March 14, 2020
The video says Schilling is trying to “reinvent himself” because “Illinois voters sent him packing.” It criticizes him for emphasizing family roots in Illinois but then moving to Iowa and making the same claim; accuses him of not being 100% pro-Trump; and uses Schilling’s claim of being a “centrist” against him.
The video points out Schilling’s two congressional losses in Illinois in 2012 and 2014, though Miller-Meeks has run for Iowa’s 2nd District seat three times in the last 12 years and was never successful.
Democrat Rita Hart has no opponent in the June 2 primary. She is running to win the seat left open by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack’s impending retirement.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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