State Rep. Christina Bohannan announced on Tuesday she is running for U.S. Congress. Bohannan, who represents Iowa City in the Iowa House, is the first Democrat to announce a challenge to Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the Republican who won the seat in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by six votes in 2020.
“I really think that we can do some good for people,” Bohannan told Little Village. “To give them a fair shot, to make it so that people who have worked hard all their lives don’t lose everything because of one bad break, one illness or a pandemic.”
Bohannan won her seat in Iowa House District 85 in a landslide victory over a 10-term incumbent in the 2020 Democratic primary. She faced no challenger in that year’s general election. It was her first run for public office.
Bohannan, a professor at the University of Iowa School of Law, stood out during her freshman session of the Iowa Legislature with her careful analysis of bills and sharp questioning of fellow lawmakers.
After that single session in the Iowa House, she is now turning her attention to the U.S. House.
“It’s a very diverse district,” Bohannan said of the 2nd Congressional District, which is currently made up of 24 counties, including Johnson. “It’s rural, it’s urban and very middle-class. That is really where I’m from, and so I’m excited to represent a district that is so diverse and that really resonates with me and how I grew up and my experiences.”
Bohannan was raised in a working class family in a small Florida town. When she was in high school, her father, a construction worker, fell ill, losing his job and his health insurance — “forcing us to choose between paying for his medicine and paying for everything else,” Bohannan recalled in a campaign video posted on Tuesday.
Despite those difficulties, Bohannan persisted and became the first member of her family to graduate from college, earning a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Florida. She worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, before attending the UF College of Law.
In 2000, she came to Iowa City as a visiting professor at the UI College of Law. Two years later, she joined the faculty full time.
“I’m a proud Iowan, proud to have raised my daughter and served my community right here,” she said in the video, which features Bohannan with her daughter Mira.
Bohannan is now the Lauridsen Family Fellow in Law and director of the Master of Studies in Law program. According to the UI College of Law, Bohannan’s recent work has focused on, among other issues, the First Amendment, intellectual property rights and competition law.
“My whole career of 20 years has been about how to foster business innovation and competition and economic growth,” Bohannan explained during a phone interview with Little Village. “That is something that is directly relevant to what Iowa needs now. We need more investment in innovation — all kinds of innovation, whether it’s clean energy, whether it’s new kinds of business, expanding small businesses into the online space.”
“There are all kinds of things about business innovation that I’ve worked on that I think would really help our economy grow.”
That includes addressing the consolidation that has occurred in agriculture, leaving farmers to deal with a just a few big companies, which has driven up the costs of farming and decreased the amount farmers get for their products, she said.
In her video, Bohannan also listed “ensuring quality, affordable health care and broadband” as top priorities.
Launching a campaign while the Delta variant is driving the spread of COVID-19 presents a real challenge, the candidate acknowledged.
“We definitely will put health first and make sure that we’re doing things safely,” she said. But that won’t keep her from campaigning throughout the district.
“One thing I want to do is get out and talk to people, all through this district, in all of the different counties,” Bohannan said. “I want to talk to Democrats, independents, Republicans and really see what’s on people’s minds.”
Speaking to Little Village, Bohannan emphasized that she is proud of the work she’s done to “build relationships across the aisle” in the Iowa House, and pointed to her work on bipartisan bills, including ones on human trafficking and elder abuse.
Bohannan said she believed that being able to work in a bipartisan manner while standing up for core principles is an approach that keeps with the political tradition in the 2nd District.
“When you look at the history of this district, we have had very independent-minded people in this position,” she said. “People who really put the district and the country before themselves or their county.”
“You look at Jim Leach, you look at Dave Loebsack,” Bohannan continued. Leach, a Republican, represented the district for 30 years, and Loebsack, a Democrat, did so for 14 years. “They came from totally different parties, they disagreed on a lot of issues, but they served the people of this district in a way that was selfless and was not guided by doing whatever the national party wanted them to do.”
“I think that we need to get back to a more independent-minded representative for this district.”