There must have been a better way

Everyone knew Iowa’s State Canvassing Board wouldn’t have the final word on the 2020 election in the second Congressional district when it certified a six-vote win for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks on November 30. Most politics watchers expected Democratic candidate Rita Hart to file for an election contest.

Instead, the Hart campaign announced on December 2 that it will bypass Iowa’s process and appeal directly to the Democratic-controlled U.S. House.

This won’t end well.

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Get ready for an election contest in IA-02

All 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district have recounted their votes, but the race between Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks is far from over.

Trackers including Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line and Tom Barton of the Quad-City Times reached the same conclusion: once all counties submit their new numbers to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, Miller-Meeks will have a six-vote lead out of more than 394,000 ballots cast. Rynard posted vote changes in each county since election day here. The two candidates’ vote share is identical to the one-hundredth of a percent (49.91 percent).

The Miller-Meeks campaign’s lawyer Alan Ostergren declared victory after Clinton County’s recount board finished its work on November 28. The Republican candidate said in a written statement, “While this race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner by the state’s Executive Council on Monday.”

Three Republicans (Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of State Paul Pate, and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig) and two Democrats (State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and State Auditor Rob Sand) serve on the Executive Council. Assuming that body certifies the result, an election contest is extremely likely.

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How many Iowa candidates "won" under rules Republicans forced on unions?

Sixth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad set out to cripple public sector unions in 2017 by enacting a law that eviscerated bargaining rights and established new barriers to union representation. Under that law, public employees must vote to recertify their union in each contract period (in most cases, every two or three years). Anyone not participating in the election is considered to have voted against the union. So a successful recertification requires yes votes from a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit.

The law hasn’t accomplished its goal of destroying large unions that typically support Democratic candidates. The vast majority of bargaining units have voted to recertify in each of the past four years. This fall, all 64 locals affiliated with the Iowa State Education Association voted to keep having that union negotiate their contracts. AFSCME Council 61, which represents most Iowa state and local government workers, was nearly as successful, with 64 out of 67 units voting to recertify.

I decided to return to a question Bleeding Heartland first pondered in 2017: how many candidates for other Iowa offices could declare victory under the system Republicans forced on labor unions?

I found that even after Iowa’s highest-turnout election in decades, our state would have no representation in Congress if contenders needed a majority vote among all constituents. “Winners” could be declared in about a third of state legislative races.

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Lessons of 2020: Win or lose, Rita Hart was a good fit for IA-02

Fifth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

Democrat Rita Hart’s campaign has asked for a recount in all 24 counties of Iowa’s second Congressional district, where Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks led by 196,862 votes to 196,815 (49.92% to 49.90%) after the canvass. It’s the closest U.S. House race in the country, and one of the closest in Iowa history.

The lead has changed twice since election night: first, when fixing a tabulation error in Jasper County put Hart slightly ahead, and then when a correction in Lucas County moved Miller-Meeks back into the lead.

Recounts in Iowa rarely produce big changes in vote totals, so Republicans are confident they will pick up this seat. However, overcoming a deficit of 47 votes out of nearly 400,000 cast is certainly possible in a recount.

Either way, one fact is clear: Hart performed much better than a generic Democrat, perhaps better than any nominee not named Dave Loebsack could have in these circumstances.

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Ten things Iowa Democrats should do

Rod Sullivan is a Johnson County supervisor. -promoted by Laura Belin

Democrats struggled through the 2016 postmortem. Why did Hillary Clinton lose? Was it an archaic, racist Electoral College? Yes. Racism? Yes. Sexism? Yes. Economic anxiety? Yes. Russia? Yes. Comey? Yes. Because she was deeply disliked? Yes. Because she ran a bad campaign? Yes. All are legitimate reasons for her loss.

The reason Democrats nationally have had such a difficult time with this is really pretty simple: We want a silver bullet. We want there to be one thing we need to fix. We refuse to recognize that multiple things can be true at once. Until we recognize this, we will not improve our performance.

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