Rita Hart, an Iowa Democratic candidate who was contesting a congressional race she lost by six votes, has announced that she will no longer challenge the results.
Hart said Wednesday that she would withdraw her contest over the results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. That means Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was sworn in in January, will remain in the seat representing southeast Iowa.
Hart had sought resolution by petitioning the House Administration Committee, a legislative body that has the authority to review such contested elections. In a statement, Hart said that she had decided to withdraw her contest “after many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest.” Hart was being represented by Marc Elias, a prominent voting rights attorney.
“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,” she said. “It is a stain on our democracy that the truth has not prevailed and my hope for the future is a return to decency and civility.”
After the November election, an Iowa board certified that Miller-Meeks won the race by six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, making it one of the closest in American history. Hart had argued that not every vote had been counted, pointing to 22 ballots that she said were left out of the final tally. She believed the legal pathway for challenging the race in Iowa left little time to ensure they would count.
Miller-Meeks for months has argued that the race was over. In a tweet on March 10, she called Hart’s challenge an “attack on Iowa’s free and fair elections.” She said Wednesday that she looked forward “to continuing to work to represent” her district.
“I want to thank Rita Hart for her decision. I know how extremely difficult it is to lose an election, but for the people to have faith and confidence in the election system and Iowa laws, it was gracious of her to concede at this time,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement.
The race was the lone remaining contest after the November 2020 election. It was also on the brink of becoming a flashpoint in the national debate over election integrity.
Many Republicans officially objected to the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, with former President Donald Trump falsely claiming it had been stolen from him. While that claim was not true, the doubt cast on election results was being used by Republicans in state legislatures to push laws to restrict voting. The National Republican Congressional Committee recently began airing ads about the Iowa race that signaled intentions to pressure Democrats to drop the challenge.
Republican members of Congress also sent a letter this month to Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding that she stop proceedings over the contested race. Even some Democrats expressed unease over actions that could overturn the results.
“Losing a House election by six votes is painful for Democrats. But overturning it in the House would be even more painful for America. Just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota on March 22.
U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy had prioritized the race, traveling to Davenport in eastern Iowa on Wednesday to show support for Miller-Meeks. McCarthy supported a challenge to the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“The people of Iowa have spoken,” McCarthy tweeted about Miller-Meeks shortly before Hart’s announcement that she would drop her contest. “She will serve out the term she rightfully won, despite Democrats’ attempt to retroactively steal the seat.”
McCarthy later began retweeting posts of support for Miller-Meeks.
Sean Patrick Maloney, a congressman and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement that he respected Hart’s decision.
“I respect her decision and applaud her efforts to ensure that every legal vote was counted in this election. I know her service and commitment to Iowans won’t end here,” Maloney said.
Miller-Meeks is a doctor and was serving in the Iowa Senate when she won the race in the 2nd district, flipping a seat that had been held by Democrat Dave Loebsack for seven terms before his retirement last year. Hart is a former Iowa senator who was on the Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor in 2018.