Rita Hart files paperwork to run for Dave Loebsack’s House seat, as the only other Democrat in the race drops out

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Rita Hart speaking with educators and community members at the Iowa City Public Library. Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

On Tuesday, Rita Hart filed the paperwork needed to appear on the ballot in the race to replace Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Hart, who served in the Iowa Senate and was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, announced she was running for the seat in May.

Loebsack, a Democrat, was first elected to represent the district in 2006, defeating 15-term incumbent Republican Jim Leach. Loebsack announced in April 2019 he would not run for reelection.

The district covers 24 counties in southeastern Iowa and includes the cities of Iowa City, Davenport, Clinton, Burlington and Oskaloosa. The nominating petition filed by Hart on Tuesday had signatures collected in all 24 counties, according to a written statement from her campaign.

Newman Abuissa, another Democrat who was running for Loebsack’s seat, said on Monday he was withdrawing from the race.

“It is time to consolidate our Democratic efforts to keep our district blue,” Abuissa, an engineer with Iowa Department of Transportation and member of the advisory board of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, said in an emailed statement.

That consolidation actually began soon after Abuissa announced his candidacy in June. Hart has since received the endorsements of Loebsack and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), as well as Rep. Abby Finkenauer and Rep. Cindy Axne.

In January, Hart was selected as one of 12 Congressional candidates to receive support from the DCCC’s Red to Blue program. The DCCC describes the program as a “battle-tested program … that arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns.” The idea, of course, is to replace Republican House members with Democrats.

On its candidates page, Red to Blue doesn’t mention the fact that Iowa’s 2nd District is already blue and has been for 14 years.

Hart represented the Iowa’s 49th District, which covers Clinton and Scott counties, in the Iowa Senate for six years, from 2013 to ’19. In 2018, she was selected by Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell as his running mate.

Born and raised in Iowa, Hart taught junior high and high school in the Calamus-Wheatland and Bennett Community School Districts for more than 20 years. Hart and her husband Paul live on a 200-acre corn and soybean farm in Wheatland, which they have owned and operated since 1986.

“I am a teacher and farmer. I am running for Congress because now more than ever, we need leaders that lean in and listen to every voice, not the loud and powerful interests that keep us from getting things done in Washington,” Hart said in a written statement on Tuesday. She listed her top priorities as “lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs, supporting the ag economy so we create jobs in rural Iowa, and improving educational opportunities for Iowans at every stage in life.”

There two Republicans currently seeking their party’s nomination in the 2nd District, Bobby Schilling and state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

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Schilling, a former one-term Illinois congressman, moved to Iowa in 2017, claiming that Illinois had become too hostile to the business sector for him to continue living there.

Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist from Ottumwa who served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, is in her first term in Iowa Senate. This is the fourth time Miller-Meeks has run in the 2nd District. She was the Republican nominee in 2008, 2010 and 2014, and lost all of the races to Loebsack.

In January, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) named Miller-Meeks one of its 2020 “Young Guns.” The NRCC defines Young Guns as candidates who “invoke the values of the House Republican Conference from around the country and who have demonstrated attributes of a winning campaign.”

Miller-Meeks was also named a Young Gun during her last Congressional campaign in 2014. Loebsack won that election with 53 percent of the vote.

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