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April 22nd, 2014

Not Much of a Primary in Iowa’s Second District but General Election Could be a Doozy.

Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks may be making her third attempt to win an eastern Iowa congressional seat, but that doesn’t mean that she should be written off as some kind of perennial candidate.

Miller-Meeks won the Republican nomination in Iowa’s Second Congressional district in 2008 and 2010.  Since then, the district has been reconfigured due to reapportionment.  While the District is still problematic for a Republican, it is much more competitive for Republicans, especially in a non-presidential year.

Miller-Meeks waited to officially launch her 2014 campaign until late February.  In the little more than a month that she’s been a candidate, Miller-Meeks raised $128,806.  That’s a strong start for a candidate who, in her past campaigns, didn’t get out of the gate strong.

A smart and tenacious campaigner, Miller-Meeks is the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination once again on June 3rd.  Her lone primary opponent is State Representative Mark Lofgren, who entered the race almost a year ago.  Lofgren raised just over $18,000 for the quarter, and for the entire year that he’s been a candidate, he’s raised just $109,751.  Lofgren is heading into the final phase of the primary with just $14,031 in the bank.

In 2008, Miller-Meeks narrowly defeated Cedar Rapids businessman Peter Teahan in the Republican primary.  Teahan, a well–known civic and business leader in Cedar Rapids, appeared to be the frontrunner in the race, but Miller-Meeks was able to overcome his advantage of being from the largest county in the district by simply outworking her opponent.

In 2010, Miller-Meeks easily dispatched of her three male challengers from Linn County to claim the Republican nomination once again.  She received over 47 percent of the vote in the 2010 primary.  In fact, Miller-Meeks beat her closest challenger in that race by 10,000 votes.  Needless to say, if Rep. Lofgren wanted to make this a contested primary, he needed to be far more active candidate.

Despite her small stature, incumbent Democrat Congressman Dave Loebsack has learned not to underestimate Miller-Meeks.  Loebsack has already amassed a campaign war chest that totals more $571,000.  In his first two races against Miller-Meeks, Loebsack benefited greatly from the make up of the district that had 48,000 more registered Democrat voters than Republicans.  In the new district, the Democrat advantage drops to just over 30,000.

While the voter registration numbers won’t put this race on the map for Miller-Meeks and the Republicans, the issues will.  Miller-Meeks an ophthalmologist who recently stepped down as director of the Iowa Department of Heath under the Branstad administration, will likely make Loebsack’s support of Obamacare the central focus of the fall campaign.  Even though the district has a Democrat registered voter advantage, there are 16,135 more no-party voters than Democrats.  If the 2014 race becomes a referendum on Obamacare, Miller-Meeks might be able to finally unseat Loebsack.

It also appears that Miller-Meeks might have some outside assistance in accomplishing that goal.  Congresswomen Ann Wagner and Diane Black have both contributed to Miller-Meeks’ campaign.  The two women are heading up, “Project GROW” for the NRCC.  “GROW” stands for Growing Republican Opportunities for Women.  VIEW PAC, which stands for Value In Electing Women has also contributed as has former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth.

Miller-Meeks is also getting support from the Republican Doctors Caucus.  The leadership PACs for Congressman Tom Price and Congresswoman Renee Ellmers are already early supporters of Miller-Meeks, ss are Congressmen Andy Harris, Paul Gosar, and Michael Burgess.

The out-of-state support is critical for Miller-Meeks.  In the 2010 race which Miller-Meeks lost by just five points, Miller-Meeks saw out-of-state Democrat money come in late and attack her.  While it’s too early to know if Miller-Meeks will have some influential allies in the final weeks of her 2014 campaign, it’s a good sign that she has been able to tap into some out-of-state money early in her race.

Not only is Miller-Meeks running in a better district in 2014, her stint at the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health has made her better known in Des Moines.  While that’s just outside of the district, it is a place where she can raise a significant amounts of money, especially with her ties to Governor Branstad.

If Miller-Meeks can make her 2014 campaign as competitive as her 2010 race was, the newly reconfigured Second Congressional District may just put her over the top.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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