Rita Hart continues “Backyard Talk” tour with stop in Iowa City

Community members met with Iowa House candidate Rita Hart in the most recent stop of her “Backyard Talks” tour to talk about issues like healthcare and human rights.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Democratic candidate for Congress Rita Hart arrived in Iowa City for her backyard talk campaign tour on September 26, 2020. Hart talked about her campaign promises and addressed issues related to gun control, healthcare, the economy, and police reform.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

In a social-distanced Iowa City event, Rita Hart continued her “Backyard Talks” Tour on Saturday morning with around 15 people where she talked about health care opportunities and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. 

Hart, the Democratic candidate for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, said it’s important to meet with people in person while campaigning, and these backyard talks are a way to get around to every county while keeping her staff and community safe amid COVID-19. 

LGBTQ and Black Iowans are underrepresented voices in the community, Hart said, so she tries her best to amplify their thoughts and really aim to understand them by listening to their stories of racism and mistreatment and making sure Congress can hear them.  

“We need to do a better job listening so we can finally understand each other. Bring people together and have these conversations as a group. We have to make sure everyone has the right to succeed,” Hart said. 

Rod Sullivan, Johnson County Board of Supervisors member, said one problem Johnson County citizens face is not having enough money to cover rent payments and medical bills in a slippery economy. 

“There are too many people who just cannot make it and we are not getting the federal help we need,” Sullivan said. 

This economy, Hart said, has been great for some but not for many. When so many people were hit with devastations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, they were so hurt because they did not have the financial cushion they needed, she said.

Hart supports raising the minimum wage and lowering prices of prescription drugs. She said the economy is a multi-pronged problem that affects and interferes with many different facets of life like the ability to receive good health care and to care for a family. 

More transparency in health care is necessary, Hart said. Families should be able to compare the cost of different resources to choose what is best for them. She wants to put an end to privatization of Medicaid in Iowa and protect social security benefits. 

Hart criticized her Republican opponent, Iowa state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, for wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

“My opponent claims to care about pre-existing conditions, and not wanting to reduce access to health care, but she proves opposite by wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Hart said. 

Miller-Meeks has expressed support for repealing the ACA in the past, but while she’s been critical of it, she hasn’t directly supported getting rid of the act during the 2020 campaign.

In their debate Thursday night, Miller-Meeks said if the U.S. Supreme Court does rule the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, it would not solve problems of surprise billing and requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions, but it would help to set a framework for Congress to work on a superior provision. 

“The ACA did not bring cost down. People lost their insurance, I know people lost their doctor,” Miller-Meeks said in the debate. 

Hart and Miller-Meeks are in a close race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District seat. The seat has been held by Democrat Dave Loebsack for 14 years, and he will retire after this term. A Sept. 20 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll asked voters which party’s candidate they would vote for in their congressional district, and 50 percent of respondents in the 2nd Congressional District said they would vote for the Democratic candidate and 46 percent said they would vote for the Republican candidate. The margin of error is +/-8.7 percent.

Community members asked how the federal government can address mental-health concerns in Iowa, and Hart said that Congress needs to make sure mental-health resources are properly funded and that there are mental-health professionals to join the health-care field to fill in any gaps.

“Mental-health professionals must be put into the conversation to provide insight into where to address mental health and how. We must also incentivise these professionals and create school programs for students to gain interest in this as a career,” Hart said. 

Hart said that she wants to use the ingenuity of farmers to come up with these new farming practices. She said she is grateful to be in Iowa because the state has so many researchers and resources to understand what needs to be done to feed the world while saving the world. 

“A politician is a name with a bad connotation that needs to be turned around,” Hart said. “A politician is a public servant and we all want to see that represented. One must seek to understand before they seek to be understood.” 

Zoe Leone, a UI third-year environmental science major, attended the event because she thinks it is important for younger voices to participate in these discussions with candidates. 

Leone is interested in sustainable farming techniques. She said that Iowa is the number one contributor of agriculture runoff in the Mississippi River which eventually leads to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, created by high nitrate levels in the water. These pollutants come from current farming techniques and wondered what Hart planned to do to change that. 

“A Lot of older people’s actions on the environment have an effect on our future so this problem needs to be addressed now,” Leone said. “College voices are pushed aside because they are told that they don’t know what they are talking about. Even if we don’t, we want to learn. We want to be given a chance to speak our mind.”

Editor’s note: This story initially stated that Hart was leading Miller-Meeks 50 percent to 46 percent in the latest Iowa Poll. The Daily Iowan clarified that the poll asked respondents which party’s candidate they would vote for in their congressional district.

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