Miller-Meeks Seeks To Break Iowa-Mississippi Jinx
Iowa and Mississippi remain the only two states which have never elected a woman either to Congress or as governor. Iowa has come close a few times -- Lynne Cutler's congressional race in 1980, Roxanne Conlin's gubernatorial race in 1982, and Elaine Baxter's run for congress in 1992.
Ottumwa doctor Mariannette Miller-Meeks "absolutely" believes she can break that jinx with hard work, as she seeks the Republican nomination for Congress in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.
Republican U.S. House primaries have been rare in southeast Iowa. Long-time incumbent Jim Leach never had a primary challenge in 17 election cycles from 1974 to 2006. The core of the current 2nd District, from Iowa City over to Muscatine and south to Des Moines and Lee Counties, last saw a Republican U.S. House primary in 1970.
But in one of the biggest upsets in the nation, Leach lost to Mt. Vernon Democrat Dave Loebsack in 2006, and for the first time in a third of a century Republicans are seeking a new candidate. Three have lined up for the right to take on Loebsack: Miller-Meeks, Cedar Rapids businessman Peter Teahen, and Hillsboro minister and conservative activist
Miller-Meeks surprised many observers by raising more money than Teahen in the first quarter of the year. Some of that money has gone into a TV buy in the district.
"If you're raising money, especially when there's a primary where it's more difficult to raise money, it indicates that your message and your issues resonate with people," she told Iowa Independent. On the stump, she points out to activists that she's been raising money from across the district, while Teahen's fundraising has been concentrated in his own Linn County.
"You go out and meet every voter, you talk to every voter you can, you try to get your message across," she said. You try to let people see that you represent them, not yourself. And let them understand that you're the candidate that can build that bridge that heals division and distrust. If you can't do that, you can't win."
Miller-Meeks is following in the footsteps of another female doctor who ran in the 2nd District, but on the Democratic side -- Julie Thomas in 2002. Thomas lost to Leach, but her name has come up often on the campaign trail. Teahen contributed to the Thomas campaign in 2002, and both Miller-Meeks and Harder have raised the donation as an issue. "I think it resonates with the Republican primary voters," Miller-Meeks told Iowa Independent. "It goes to authenticity."
During his 15 terms, Leach de-emphasized his republican label and touted his "independence." Perhaps in keeping with that tradition, the Republican label isn't prominent in the Miller-Meeks campaign. It's mentioned once in the TV spot, but one has to dig down a layer in the web site to see the R Word. Still, Miller-Meeks says her conservative credentials are solid. "If you look at my budget, and how I spent money in my campaign, I think it indicates that I'm a fiscal conservative," she said.
Campaign manager Todd Versteegh with Miller-Meeks
Miller-Meeks leads with her medical experience. She's the immediate past president of the Iowa Medical Association, and her web site proclaims her as "The Prescription for Leadership in Congress." Her supporters were highly visible at the congressional district convention in easy to spot medical lab coats. She sums up her health care plan as "consumer guided and purchased health insurance through a national risk pool with multiple insurance players," while attacking single-payer systems, saying they "ration care and limit innovation and technology
"I have a background to back up my issues," Miller-Meeks told Iowa Independent. She spent 24 years in the U.S. Army, completing her medical education through that period. "I have a military background, I have a nurse background, I have an educator background, I have a physician background," she said. "So when I speak about health care, I know that issue."