April 2, 2021 — Former Iowa state senator, Rita Hart (D), withdrew her challenge late Wednesday afternoon, before the House Administration Committee pertaining to Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Ottumwa) six-vote victory in the November election. Also, the New Mexico Democratic State Central Committee met virtually over the past two days in order to choose a congressional nominee to fill the state’s 1st District vacancy. The seat is in special election cycle because Deb Haaland resigned her federal legislative office in order to join the Biden cabinet as Interior Secretary. Details below:
In a released statement, IA-2 challenger Hart said, “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans.”
In actuality, the miniscule victory margin is the first such result of this type since 1984, not in 100 years, when in a similar case the House of Representatives decided in early 1985 that then-Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-IN) was re-elected with a four-vote margin.
The IA-2 result was a point of controversy ever since the new Congress was sworn into office on Jan. 3. Instead of challenging the six-vote margin in the Iowa court system, Hart chose to bring her complaint directly to the House of Representatives. She claimed that Iowa election authorities has not counted 22 legal ballots that would have changed the final outcome. The officials retorted that they rejected the ballots for various reasons of noncompliance with state election laws.
After the body’s internal organization process was completed, the House Administration Committee voted on a 6-3 party line vote to hear Hart’s case. There had been much chatter in the news media and blogosphere during the past two weeks about the Democratic leadership wanting to award the seat to Hart, thus displacing Rep. Miller-Meeks who had been provisionally seated on Jan. 3 pending the outcome of the Hart challenge.
Through Wednesday’s decision to withdraw, however, the committee had not voted on the case. Had they recommended Miller-Meeks’ removal, the report would have gone to the floor where the entire body would have cast a vote whether to seat Hart.
It was becoming apparent, however, that the House leadership simply didn’t have the votes on the floor to reverse the certified outcome. Counting the entire Republican conference in a united stance to protect Miller-Meeks, the Democrats were in a position where they could lose no more than four votes from their own conference, assuming they waited until after the April 24 double-Democrat Louisiana special congressional runoff when they would add another party member to their conference.
With already six majority Democrats expressing public skepticism about overturning the election, and many others uttering similar sentiments behind the scenes – particularly Iowa’s lone Democratic representative, Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), who was in a no-win situation – it became clear that the entire conference was not in agreement about the impending removal action.
With the 2020 result now finalized, whether or not we see a re-match between Rep. Miller-Meeks’ and Hart next year remains to be seen. Before a decision about the next campaign can be determined comes redistricting, which will likely change the politically marginal 2nd district somewhat, but the basis of the seat will remain intact.
The 2nd District occupies Iowa’s southeastern quadrant and houses the cities of Davenport and Iowa City.
With eight Democratic candidates – including four sitting state legislators – vying for the nomination before the 200-member political party committee, multiple voting rounds were held in the state’s attempt to replace Haaland’s vacant seat. At the end of the first day with the race whittled to two contenders, state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque) led state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque) by a 37-22 percent margin. This meant the two would advance into the final round that concluded Wednesday evening because neither had obtained majority support.
On the final vote, Stansbury came from well behind to score a 51-49 percent victory and captured the party nomination for the June 1 special election. She will now face Albuquerque state Sen. Mark Moores, who won the Republican nomination earlier in the week. The Libertarians have nominated Iraq War veteran Chris Manning. Former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn will be on the ballot as an Independent candidate.
Stansbury begins the special cycle as a clear favorite since the 1st District has become reliably Democratic after being marginally Republican earlier in the century.
NM-1 houses the city of Albuquerque and virtually all of Bernalillo County. It also contains all or parts of Torrance, Sandoval, Valencia, and Santa Fe Counties. President Biden carried the district, 60-37 percent. Rep. Haaland won both of her elections with 58 and 59 percent of the vote. Demographically, the district breaks 49 percent Hispanic and 41 percent non-Hispanic white.