U.S. Representative Mariannete Miller-Meeks confirmed on on November 10 that she will seek re-election in Iowa's new first district, rather than in the new third district, where her home county (Wapello) is now located.
I never doubted that Miller-Meeks would run in the district containing sixteen of the 24 counties she now represents and roughly 80 percent of her constituents. President Donald Trump carried the counties in the new IA-01 by about 2 points. If Miller-Meeks had stayed in the new IA-03, she would have to run against Democratic Representative Cindy Axne in a district Trump carried by just 0.4 percent, where about three-quarters of voters live in Polk or Dallas counties.
Miller-Meeks hasn't decided where she will move, or whether she will sell her Ottumwa home. Technically she is not required to move; as long as she resides in the state of Iowa, she doesn't need to live in IA-01 to run there. But other Iowa members of Congress in similar situations (most recently Jim Leach and Leonard Boswell in 2001, and Tom Latham and Dave Loebsack in 2011) have moved after redistricting placed their homes outside the district where they planned to seek re-election.
NEW IA-01 MUCH LIKE THE OLD IA-02
For reasons I do not understand, the Legislative Services Agency flipped the numbers for the Congressional districts covering most of northeast and most of southeast Iowa. As a reminder, here's the map that will be in place starting with the 2022 election.
Compared to the current Congressional map, Miller-Meeks has lost eight counties along the southern two tiers. She picked up Warren County (previously part of IA-03), and Iowa, Jones, and Jackson counties (previously part of IA-01).
Assuming Miller-Meeks wins the GOP nomination, she will go into the 2022 elections with incumbency advantages she lacked in her previous four Congressional campaigns. On the other hand, the new IA-01 tilts a little less to Republicans than the current IA-02. (Miller-Meeks underperformed the top of the GOP ticket in most of the counties last year.) Losing Wapello County could also be unfortunate, since Miller-Meeks has done well in the Ottumwa area before.
The GOP nominee will likely face State Representative Christina Bohannan in the general election. In a written statement, she welcomed Miller-Meeks to the race.
While she's been weighing her political prospects, and voting against bipartisan infrastructure improvements for Iowa, I've been traveling throughout Iowa's first Congressional district meeting voters where they're at. It's been an honor to hear from folks about the issues that matter most to them -- including fixing our roads and bridges, creating good-paying jobs, supporting small business, and improving our education and health care. One thing is clear: Southeastern Iowans want a Congressional representative who values truth, integrity, and will put delivering results for the people of Iowa above divisive partisan politics.
At least one other Republican is competing for the nomination in the new IA-01.
KYLE KUEHL ALSO SEEKING NOMINATION
Kyle Kuehl formally announced his Republican candidacy on November 10 in Bettendorf. From a news release provided by the candidate:
Kyle Kuehl served as a Sniper in the Iowa Army National Guard where he deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011. After serving overseas Kyle graduated with a degree in Entrepreneurial Management from The University of Iowa.
In the recent years Kyle Kuehl has launched several small businesses in Eastern Iowa that have a profound impact on local residents. Kyle owns and operates FSBOHOMES Quad Cities, which is an innovative real estate company that has put over ten million dollars back in the pockets of their customers by offering an alternative way of selling their home by owner. As an innovator in the education industry Kyle also launched Code Ninjas Quad Cities, a unique business that teaches computer coding and STEM education to children ages 5-14. Kyle is engaged to his fiancé, Summer Olson, who also owns Quad Cities Aero, a regional flight training school. Kyle and Summer reside in Bettendorf with their 8-year-old son and their two dogs.
Kyle is an avid believer in decisive action and strong and open communication. He is confident his experience serving in the military and vast business experience will have a strong impact on Congress’s ability to get things accomplished. “I am so proud to say I have absolutely zero political experience, I’m not running to be your politician, I’m running to be your representative” – Kyle Kuehl. This Congressional race is particularly important because after the redistricting Iowa’s 1st district is an open seat.
"When I look at Congress, there are way too few veterans in Congress and way too few business owners in Congress, and, honestly, that’s why not much is getting done," Kuehl said. "Whether left or right, that will appeal to a lot of eastern Iowa folks looking for those attributes in Congress."
Rising partisanship and a decrease in the number of competitive U.S. House districts are much more convincing reasons for the gridlock in Congress. Veterans are not underrepresented in the legislature. The current U.S. House has 75 veterans, including Miller-Meeks, out of its 435 members. The percentage of veterans in Congress (17 percent of the House and Senate combined) is still higher than the share of veterans and service members in the overall population (about 7 percent).
I asked Kuehl whether he has any specific disagreements with Miller-Meeks on the issues and how he thought he would represent the district better. Responding via email, he noted (accurately) that the number of veterans serving in Congress has steadily declined over the past 50 years. Kuehl added,
I want to emphasize that there are still too few veterans in congress. We also specifically need combat veterans, because combat veterans know how to execute and make effective decisions while engaging the enemy in a life and death situation. In theory, being effective in Congress should be a walk in the park compared to what combat veterans have done for this country.
I’m not running for Congress based upon the decisions of any other person, including our current representative. I’m running because I know in my heart that the attributes I possess are desperately needed in Congress and the people of Iowa will decide who they want to represent them for the Republican Party in June.
Beating a sitting member of Congress in a primary is hard. It has rarely happened in Iowa. Yes, Randy Feenstra defeated Steve King in IA-04 last year. But Feenstra had a lot of establishment Republican support, because of King's baggage and toxicity. To convince voters to oust an incumbent, you need to explain why voters should fire the other person and hire you.
Miller-Meeks has won competitive GOP primaries in each of her four previous Congressional campaigns. In 2010, she took about 51 percent of the vote in a four-way primary, even though the National Republican Congressional Committee backed one of her opponents. Next year, she will have the full support of the NRCC and the Iowa GOP establishment. It's hard to see how Kuehl could gain any traction in the absence of a scandal or some issue that enrages the conservative base.