Living in Society

Politics Takes No Holiday

Curing Yukon Gold seed potatoes, 2021.

The election contest in Iowa’s Second Congressional District is expected to continue until July, according to Marc Elias, counsel for the Rita Hart campaign during a March 23 press conference. By then the term will be 25 percent finished, and today, it is unclear whether the votes to seat Hart in the U.S. House of Representatives will exist after the House Administration Committee finishes its work.

According to Elias, and this is not new, there are 22 legally cast, uncounted votes, Mariannette Miller-Meeks acknowledged publicly such votes exist, and there should be a fair process to count them. The Miller-Meeks position is the election has been certified by the State of Iowa, Hart skipped the Iowa court system in pursuit of an appeal, and that should be that.

Miller-Meeks is not voting the way she should on most issues. She did vote for the Violence Against Women Act, unlike other Republican members of Iowa’s congressional delegation. She has been against many other Democratic priorities, including HR-1, the For The People Act. Because she was seated in the Congress, she is free to vote how she will. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it sustains my interest in Hart’s election contest.

Hart’s appeal is not like Trump’s legal cases, at all. Hart’s position from election day has been that all legally cast votes should be counted. A key issue is that in no other contest arising from the 2020 election have Democratic attorneys denied Republicans (i.e. Trump) had a right to make a contest. Miller-Meeks first action was a petition for dismissal of Hart’s contest. Consideration of the petition was deferred by the committee chair and that led us to Monday’s filings and yesterday’s press briefing.

Incumbency is powerful, even for Miller-Meeks who began her term in January. Because of that, she gained a sense of authority that has been respected by her peers and by members of the news media. I keep reminding folks Miller-Meeks’ appointment was provisional. That, however, gets sanded off in the woodshed of daily political reporting.

Seven members of the media asked questions during the press conference. The nature of questions reflected the media narrative that has been and continues to be woven more than facts of the contest.

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times asked about Hart’s decision to bypass the Iowa Court system to take the contest to a partisan U.S. House of Representatives. I’m losing track of how many times the Hart campaign has explained this, beginning in November 2020. Fandos also asked Elias if there was a conflict of interest issue because he represented some members of the House Administration Committee in other cases. I thought that was a pretty good question until I heard Elias’ answer: “It’s nonsense. I don’t represent the House Administration Committee. I represent Rita Hart. Everyone knows that. There is not some secret going on there. I’m handling this like any other case.”

Every member of news media who spoke had some narrative to support. While news media maintains an obvious bias, and we expect them to have a narrative to dumb down stories for readers and viewers, it’s unfortunate and tedious when we have to spend our time arguing with media rather than paying attention to the facts of a case.

We knew, based on history, that a contested federal election would take time to resolve. We also knew most of such cases brought to the Congress were dismissed. The problem for Second District Democrats is whoever is the candidate for the Congress in 2022 needs to be working this summer and the Hart-Miller-Meeks contest may not be resolved by then.

If Hart wins the contest and is seated in the Congress, incumbency will play a significant role in 2022. However, if the contest is dismissed, or if it is pursued and the whole House rejects it, we’ll be behind the eight ball. Pursuing this election contest puts Democrats in a difficult situation as we prepare for the 2022 campaigns.

I support Hart’s contest in the House Administration Committee with the opinion we should count all the votes and let chips fall where they may. In the meanwhile we have to hold Mariannette Miller-Meeks to account for her terrible voting record. That’s something we did before and will pursue going forward. I suspect Second District Democrats can multi-task as long as we know that’s what we are doing.

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