Two weeks after the Iowa Legislature approved the redistricting maps that changed the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks announced she will move out of her hometown of more than two decades in order to run in the newly drawn 1st Congressional District.
The 1st District covers much of the same area in southeast Iowa as the current 2nd District, where Miller-Meeks won a six-vote victory in the 2020 election. The freshman Republican was the only Iowa member of Congress who ended up outside their current district, as Wapello County was moved into the 3rd Congressional District, which has been represented by Democrat Cindy Axne since 2019.
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which drew the new maps, is not allowed to consider where lawmakers live while working on district boundaries. That is so “voters choose their elected officials, instead of politicians choosing their voters,” as was often repeated during the redistricting process.
During a speech in Davenport on Wednesday morning, Miller-Meeks, who has lived in Ottumwa since the ’90s, explained why she is choosing to move to the 1st District instead of remaining in what will be the 3rd.
“The newly drawn First Congressional District encompasses the bulk of the current Second Congressional District and includes more than 85 percent of the constituents that I currently represent,” she said. “While Wapello County, where my current home is located, is not part of the new district, the counties that will become the new First Congressional District next year have been home to me for many reasons.”
The reasons Miller-Meeks gave for her impending move is that in the past she worked in West Burlington and taught at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, so she knows the concerns of business owners, working families, farmers and others who make their local communities what they are.
She added, “And I have a special connection with so many people throughout the new First District.”
Although Miller-Meeks is still in her first term representing southeast Iowa, she has extensive political experience in the area. She ran three unsuccessful campaigns for Congress against former Rep. Dave Loebsack, before winning in 2020 against Democrat Rita Hart, following Loebsack’s decision not to run for reelection.
Before being elected to Congress, Miller-Meeks also represented Wapello County in the Iowa State Senate.
Miller-Meeks’ announcement came one day after another Republican announced he is running in the new 1st District. Kyle Kuehl of Bettendorf, a veteran of the Iowa Army National Guard and the owner of a real estate company, has never run for office before, but told the Quad City Times he believes his military and business background would make him an effective member of Congress.
“As a business owner, you have to be a decisive person and really understand communication,” he said. “If you can do those two things you’re off to a great start being a successful representative of the people. When it comes to Congress making decisions on foreign policy and veterans, it surely helps to have someone who has been on the front line serving this country.”
According to Kuehl, “there are way too few veterans in Congress and way too few business owners in Congress.”
Miller-Meeks is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army for 24 years. She is also a former business owner. An ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks opened her own practice in Ottumwa in 1997.
By choosing to move rather than run in the district she lives in, Miller-Meeks is actually following the example of her predecessor, Dave Loebsack.
Loebsack lived in Linn County when he was first elected to Congress in 2006. In the redistricting following the 2010 Census, Linn was moved into the 1st Congressional District and Loebsack moved to Iowa City to remain in the 2nd District.
The Republican nominee in the new 1st District will face Democrat Christina Bohannan in the 2022 general election. Bohannan, who represents Iowa City in the Iowa House and launched a campaign for Congress in 2021, released a written statement following Miller-Meeks’ announcement.
“I welcome Rep. Miller-Meeks to the race in Iowa’s new first Congressional district,” Bohannan said. “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.”