State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks claimed victory tonight in Southeast Iowa after a contentious primary contest embroiled the top two Republican candidates.
The Associated Press called the race for Miller-Meeks at 10:07 p.m Tuesday. Polls closed across Iowa at 9 p.m.
Unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State show Miller-Meeks earned the support of 47.5% of Republican primary voters. Bobby Schilling, her top opponent in the race, finished with 36.3% support. Steven Everly earned 5.8% support compared to Tim Borchardt’s 4.9% and Rick Phillips’ 5%.
“Throughout my entire life, I have never quit fighting for the American Dream, I have never quit fighting for what I believe in and I have never quit fighting for you,” Miller-Meeks said, in a statement condemning “socialism” and the “heartless policies of my opponent.”
“It’s not just about being for the little guy,” Miller-Meeks said, “it’s about being the little guy and making sure that every other little guy’s voice is heard loud and clear.”
Five Republicans were on the ballot in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District for the chance to take on Democrat Rita Hart this fall and win the seat left vacant by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack’s impending retirement.
“I am proud of the campaign we ran. Tonight we came up short. That’s okay. I look forward to supporting both Donald Trump and Miller-Meeks in the fall,” Schilling said. “I’d like to thank my supporters, my friends, and my family for their wonderful dedication. These last couple of weeks have been incredibly meaningful to me on a personal level. This isn’t the end. We’ll be back.”
June 2, 2020, marks the fourth time Miller-Meeks will represent the Republican Party in their effort to win the 2nd District. She lost general election contests in 2008, 2010 and 2014. This year the Ottumwa physician will face Hart, a former state senator, teacher and farmer. Hart was on the gubernatorial ballot in 2018 as Fred Hubbell’s running mate. She was uncontested in the Democratic primary.
“We’re facing some of the most challenging times our country has ever experienced. I am heartbroken the way hatred, racism, and violence are tearing our country apart,” Hart said in a statement after the polls closed Tuesday night. “As a lifelong Iowan, farmer and teacher, I have seen the challenges that our communities are facing. Now more than ever, we need leadership that brings people together. Whether it is health care, economic development, justice, public safety, or education, I will always work to put Iowans ahead of politics and provide real solutions to our toughest problems.”
Schilling, a former congressman from Illinois who moved to Iowa in 2017, earned some high-profile endorsements during the primary, including Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, but significantly trailed Miller-Meeks in fundraising and support from Iowa’s Republican officials.
Miller-Meeks, elected to the Iowa Senate in 2018, had support from Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Joni Ernst and others.
Schilling and Miller-Meeks relentlessly went after each other in the primary to try and prove who was more conservative and the most ardent support of President Trump. Schilling accused Miller-Meeks of not being pro-life and of not supporting Donald Trump, while Miller-Meeks criticized his tenure in Congress and the fact he is not from Iowa.
When Schilling announced May 20 he had to undergo surgery due to a cancer diagnosis, his campaign challenged Miller-Meeks to take down their TV ad bashing Schilling. Miller-Meeks’ campaign declined, and so the ugliness persisted.
As of Monday morning, registered Democrats in the 2nd District outnumber Republicans 178,367 to 148,564, but President Trump carried the district in 2016 and the Cook Political Report rates it a “Toss Up.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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6/3/20: This article was updated to include unofficial voting results from the Iowa Secretary of State.