‘I think our democracy is absolutely on the line’: Christina Bohannan talks about why she is running for Congress

Christina Bohannan speaks with supporters at the opening of her campaign office in Iowa City, May 7, 2022. — Paul Brennan/Little Village

Christina Bohannan opened her campaign office in Iowa City on Saturday, with a brief speech about why she is running for Congress in the newly drawn 1st District.

“I think we all know there is so much at stake in this election in 2022,” Bohannan, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, told the handful of supporters gathered in the office at 389 E College St on Saturday afternoon. “A lot of what I talk about when I go out and talk to people is really working people issues. I think we have to get back to that.”

Bohannan, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, is challenging incumbent Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who won the seat covering southeast Iowa by six votes in 2020, after unsuccessful attempts in 2008, 2010 and 2014.

“In Iowa, we really are not standing up for working people here,” Bohannan said. “What’s happening in our legislature is just showing that – cutting unemployment, gutting collective bargaining rights.”

“What we saw was that working people in Iowa are the unsung heroes who brought us through this pandemic. They are the people who keep the food on our table, the people who keep our shelves stocked, who took care of sick people, who kept our businesses afloat. And we have to get back to honoring and respecting that work, and having them earn a decent wage, have decent benefits so that they can take care of their families.”

Bohannan is completing her first term in the Iowa House of Representatives. She won the seat in her first run for office by defeating a 20-year Democratic incumbent in a landslide in the 2020 primary. Speaking to Little Village after her remarks at the office opening, Bohannan said the voter concerns she’s heard most since she began campaigning for Congress in August are largely the same as issues she’s dealt with in the Iowa Legislature.

Concerns about education — “the voucher bill, lack of support for education, targeting teachers” — has been a constant. Public education is a personal issue for Bohannan.

“It changed my life. I owe everything to my public education,” she said.

Bohannan grew up in a working class family in Florida, and was the first in her family to go to college. She received a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Florida and worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, before attending the UF College of Law.

Bohannan moved to Iowa City in 2000 to take a position as a visiting professor at the law school. Two years later, she joined the faculty full-time, and is now Lauridsen Family Fellow in Law and director of the Master of Studies in Law program.

Another area of concern for voters that’s remained constant since August is health care. That too is personal, Bohannan explained.

“I saw first-hand what happens to people and to families when you lose healthcare,” she said, recalling her experience growing up. Her father developed emphysema and the insurance company concealed his policy. After that, the emphysema was considered a pre-existing condition, making it almost impossible to get insurance.

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“It really devastated us,” she said. “We were choosing between paying for his medicine, which helped him breathe, and paying for groceries and everything else.”

In recent months inflation has joined education and healthcare as a major concern, as prices have climbed in what Bohannan called the “perfect storm” created by the impact of COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A sign in Christina Bohannan’s campaign office on May 7, 2022. — Paul Brennan/Little Village

“Prices are way too high on gas, on groceries, on everything,” she said. “One of the things I think we really need to look into there is the possibility of price gouging, both from oil companies as well as from food companies. We’ve seen they said they had to jack-up prices because of supply chain problems, their inputs were higher, but now they’re posting record profits. And in the meantime they have increased prices on groceries, on gas, on everything and it’s really hurting working people.”

Since the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate all constitutional protections for reproductive rights leaked last week, Bohannan has held several campaign events and “at every one abortion came up,” she said. “I think a lot of people are pretty shocked.”

“It’s been a pretty balanced approach that served the people of Iowa and the country well for nearly 50 years,” Bohannan said about the framework for abortion rights created by Roe. “And to have that potentially — if this draft opinion becomes law — to have that completely overturned overnight I think is really shocking to a lot of people.”

“The way I look at this is women will never be free or equal so long as they can’t control their own bodies.”

Bohannan pointed out that her opponent Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist, supports the draft opinion. Following the leak, the congresswoman said in a written statement that if Justice Alito’s opinion is the court’s final decision “it would be a long-overdue return to fidelity to the text of our Constitution and places this issue back at the hands of the states.”

“That’s true, but look at what the states are doing,” Bohannan said. “If all states are free to do what Texas has done, then we are in a full-on police state.”

During her remarks to the people gathered for the office opening, Bohannon said, “There are a lot of big issues happening in this election… I think our democracy is absolutely on the line.”

Bohannan reminded everyone that Miller-Meeks only won her seat by six votes “at a time when Democrats weren’t doing door-knocking, weren’t doing events, our university was shut down because of COVID.”

Bohannan concluded her remarks by saying she is running for the U.S. House instead of her seat in the Iowa House because she is “worried about where we are” as a country, and she believes she’s in a position to do something about that.

“If we can flip this seat from red to blue, we can literally help to shape the future of our state and our country and our democracy,” Bohannan said. “And that is why I’m doing this.”