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.
blog comments powered by Disqus