Pelosi says Iowa Republican in contested race will be seated

·3 min read

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Majority Democrats in the U.S. House will allow an Iowa Republican to take office while they review her opponent's contest claiming the six-vote race was wrongly decided, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday.

Pelosi said “yes” when asked at a news conference whether Mariannette Miller-Meeks will be sworn in with other members of the House on Sunday.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said later that Democrats “intend to provisionally seat” Miller-Meeks pending the outcome of the challenge filed last week by her Democratic opponent, Rita Hart.

Following a recount, a state panel certified Miller-Meeks as the winner by six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, the closest House race in decades. The candidates were running to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who leaves office Saturday after serving seven terms and has called on the House to consider Hart's challenge.

Hart's contest argues that at least 22 lawfully cast votes, including 18 for her, were wrongly excluded due to bureaucratic and legal errors and would be enough to change the outcome when counted. She also wants the House to visually examine thousands of ballots marked as undervotes and overvotes by tabulation machines that were not reviewed during the recount.

The House Administration Committee is considering how to proceed, and Hammill said the panel would conduct “a thorough and fair review of this election to make sure every vote was counted and counted as cast.”

Hart said she looked forward to that process, and challenged Miller-Meeks to say whether the excluded votes should be counted.

“Iowans deserve to know that they will be represented by the candidate who received the most votes in this race,” she said. The district includes Davenport, Iowa City and much of southeastern Iowa.

Miller-Meeks has three more weeks to respond to Hart's contest, which was filed under a 1969 law giving House candidates an avenue to contest election outcomes. Her supporters have argued that Hart's complaint should be dismissed because, citing time constraints, she declined to contest the race under Iowa law. Republicans have accused Hart of instead seeking to be installed through a partisan power grab.

Allowing Miller-Meeks to take office does not preclude the House from deciding later that Hart won more votes and should replace her. The House last overturned a state election result in 1985 after conducting its own recount, with majority Democrats awarding the seat to a Democratic incumbent in a move that infuriated Republicans.

After Pelosi's remarks, Miller-Meeks announced that she was resigning her seat in the Iowa Senate, where she was elected to represent the Ottumwa area in 2018.

“I look forward to working on behalf of all of the people in the 2nd Congressional District as their new U.S. representative,” she wrote in her resignation letter.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds scheduled a special election for Jan. 26 to fill the state Senate seat, which represents all or parts of four southern Iowa counties.

Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press