Miller-Meeks and Bohannan both feel confident about race in 1st Congressional District seat

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and state Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, both say that they have reason to be confident they can win the 2022 election in Southeast Iowa this fall. In 2020, Miller-Meeks won her race in the Southeast district by six votes.


Jerod Ringwald and Ryan Adams

Left; Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, announces she is seeking reelection in Iowa’s 1st congressional district during a press conference at Dahl Old Car Home in Davenport on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Right; Rep. Christina Bohannan poses for a portrait outside the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

Meg Doster, Politics Reporter

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and state Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, both say that they have reason to be confident they can win the 2022 election in Southeast Iowa this fall.

In 2020, Miller-Meeks won her race for the 2nd Congressional District by six votes — the closest congressional race in the country that year. Now she’s running for the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District, which contains most of the counties she currently represents.

On Oct. 28, 2021, the Iowa Legislature redrew Iowa’s congressional districts, putting Miller-Meeks’s residence in the 3rd Congressional District which is represented by Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa.

“As we look at the 1st District, she’s represented more than 88 percent of people in the district,” Eric Woolson, Miller-Meeks’ campaign spokesperson, said. “She knows the district. The district knows her, and she just has tremendous support.”

Miller-Meeks is planning on having a residence in the 1st district, Woolson said.

According to the State of Iowa Voter Registration records, the 1st Congressional District has 464,534 active voters. Of those, 34.6 percent are registered with the Democratic Party, followed by no-party voters at 32.8 percent and 31.8 percent as Republicans. The remaining 7.9 percent are registered with a third party.

Iowa’s new congressional districts were signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds Thursday, Nov. 4. (Legislative Services Agency)

Bohannan, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, is hoping to flip the seat blue in 2022. Since 2020, she has represented the 81st district in the Iowa House after defeating Democratic incumbent Vicki Lensing, who had been in the House from 2001 to 2021.

The race is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list of political races the committee thinks can go from a Republican incumbent to a Democratic challenger.

“The DCCC’s designation on Red to Blue reflects that this will be a major targeted race and also reflects that we are running a very strong campaign,” Bohannan said. “We are very honored to be on it. We’re one of 12 candidates across the entire country on this list.”

Woolson said being on the DCCC’S Red to Blue list doesn’t affect the campaign and doesn’t believe that the Democratic Party will be able to flip the district.

“​​[Bohannon] is an incumbent in terms of the current state legislative race, but that doesn’t necessarily help her in a congressional race,” said Timothy Hagle, a political science professor and faculty adviser for the UI College Republicans. “She’s going to be familiar in her district in Johnson County, of course, but that doesn’t really help her and in some of the other counties down in the Southeast part of the state.”

Hagle said Miller-Meeks’ strength was reaching voters who aren’t loyal to any party. He said that this gives her an advantage over Bohannon.

“The Democratic Party decided they weren’t going to do any door to door during COVID while the Republicans went ahead and did door to door,” Cedar County Democrats Chair Larry Hodgden said. “Then they ended up winning by six votes.”

Hodgden said the election this year will be more of an even playing field for the Democrats and Republicans.

“The challenge for Bohannan is that she’s got a lot of work to do as any new challenger would to get her name out,” Hagle said.

RELATED: Kyle Kuehl, Republican candidate for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, drops out of race as petition is rejected by state panel

Hodgden said he believes Bohannan is reaching voters in his county and that Bohannan herself has visited Cedar County in person and plans to continue doing that in the six months leading up to the election.

“We’re reaching people digitally,” Bohannan said. “I’m making phone calls, most of all. I’m out in the district. We’re doing meet-and-greets and fundraisers and you know, so I am talking to people all over the district who are looking for better representation.”

Woolson said Miller-Meeks has already made visits to the counties that she is not already representing: Jones, Jackson, Iowa, and Warren.

“[Bohannan is] a good person, but her politics don’t fit that district,” Jeff Kaufmann, the chair of the Iowa Republican Party, said. “And I think that the DCCC involved simply means that there’s going to be the support that she needs to get the message out. And I think at the end of the day, when you look at the two competing messages, Mariannette’s message is stronger.”

Hagle said Miller-Meeks’ win in 2020 by six votes will not be a large factor in deciding the upcoming 2022 election.

“There may be factors, and particularly if you’re talking about congressional elections, because they happen every two years,” Hagle said. “You’ve got one year as a presidential election. The next year is the midterms. And so, there’s a whole different dynamic between those two types of elections.”

Midterm elections have historically been bad for the party that occupies the White House — since 1900, the president’s party has only gained seats in the House of Representatives three times.

Woolson said he believes Miller-Meeks’s support has only grown since 2020.

“I think that the 2020 and the 2022 election are completely opposite situations,” Kaufmann said. “I don’t think that people realized that Joe Biden was going to literally be incompetent and mess up literally everything he touched.”

Linda Upmeyer, the former Iowa Speaker of the House, said she doesn’t see how any Democratic candidate can get any sort of reach with voters.

“Everybody’s really motivated to work hard and fight to hang on to this seat, but to take back the majority in Congress,” Upmeyer said. “We can put an end here to this runaway spending and these extreme liberal positions that are being taken, get back on track.”

Woolson said Miller-Meeks is focusing on issues that concern Iowans, mainly focusing on economic issues.

“How do we create those economic opportunities so that the Iowa businesses thrive?” Woolson said. “How do we make sure that Iowans and other folks have access to affordable health care, including mental health care?”

Bohannan said she’s talking with voters about kitchen table issues and the economy.

“I’m mainly focusing on the things that I’m hearing from people from the constituents of the district,” Bohannan said. “…We’re talking about how people want to work, but they need good paying jobs. They need things like child care, transportation, broadband, you know, they’re very concerned about inflation and we really need to get on top of inflation. We need to bring those prices down.”

James Culbert, the chair of the Warren County Democrats, said people just want a government that works.

“We want a congressional party that actually is a Congress that actually sees to the needs of the people,” Culbert said. “We want government to do its best to keep us healthy in these challenging times.”

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