Democrat Rita Hart withdraws challenge in Iowa congressional race

Democrat Rita Hart has withdrawn her challenge to Republican Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ victory in Iowa’s second congressional district. 

The House had been reviewing Hart’s case, after Hart contested Miller-Meeks’ six-vote victory out of nearly 400,000 votes cast in the race. Miller-Meeks’ victory has already been certified by state officials. 

“After many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest, I have made the decision to withdraw my contest before the House Committee on Administration,” Hart said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Since Election Day, and throughout this entire process, my mission has been about ensuring the voices of Iowans who followed the law are not silence. I am saddened that Iowans’ votes will not count through no fault of their own.” 

Hart said she wishes her opponent “all the best as she serves the people of this great state as a congressman.” Miller-Meeks thanked Hart for her decision to withdraw her challenge. 

“I want to thank Rita Hart for her decision,” the congresswoman said in a statement. “I know how extremely difficult it is to lose an election, but for the people to have faith and confidence in the election system and Iowa laws, it was gracious of her to concede at this time. I look forward to continuing to work to represent the people of Iowa’s Second District.”

The initial canvass of the race found Miller-Meeks defeated Hart by 47 votes. After a recount, that margin of victory was narrowed to just six votes out of more than 400,000 cast. Hart’s campaign filed a challenge with the House Committee on Administration in December and alleged that there were 22 legally cast votes that weren’t included in the canvass or recount of the race that would have given Hart the victory. Hart went to the U.S. House rather than challenging the results in the Iowa courts. 

Hart’s withdrawal comes after two weeks of public pressure from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who even traveled to the district on Wednesday to support Miller-Meeks and accuse Democrats of using the House Committee on Administration to try to increase their slim majority.

“Democrats want to turn over an election after it’s been counted, recounted and a bipartisan election board had voted. It’s time to move on,” he said at an event in Davenport, Iowa. “Why? Because they want to set up to try to steal a seat because they only have a five seat majority.”

The pressure campaign appeared to be working, as a growing number of Democrats – including several moderates – expressed public reservations about the House potentially overturning the election once a lawmaker had already been certified and seated.

“Losing a House election by six votes is painful for Democrats. But overturning it in the House would be even more painful for America. Just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should,” tweeted Minnesota Democrat Dean Phillips last week. 

Pelosi defended Hart’s challenge before the committee as legitimate and allowed under House law.

“If you had lost a race by six votes, wouldn’t you like to say there must be some way that we can count this?” she told reporters last week. “The House of Representatives has the authority to do this.”

She also argued that the “unfair” approach would have been to refuse to seat Miller-Meeks at the start of the term, something she said many colleagues encouraged her to do. 

“We said no, we will seat the member and then we’ll go through the normal process,” she said. 

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