Dem Chair In Iowa 2 Case Calls Out GOP’s ‘Coordinated Public Campaign’ To Smear Process

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
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March 25, 2021 10:38 a.m.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Administration Committee, called out Republicans Wednesday night for running a “coordinated public campaign” to taint the process for settling the contested election in Iowa’s second district. 

“Republicans know how this process works – over the past 90 years the Congress has adjudicated, in a bipartisan manner, more than a hundred contested elections cases filed by Republicans and Democrats alike in races nowhere near as close as Iowa’s Second,” she said. 

“With that history in mind, it is profoundly disappointing some of my Republican colleagues are now painting this process as somehow nefarious,” she added.

Democrat Rita Hart filed a claim under the Federal Contested Elections Act concerning rejected ballots in her November race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) provisionally sat at the beginning of the term. That race was decided by just six votes out of around 400,000 cast.

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Hart says that her team has identified 22 ballots they say were wrongly rejected due to election worker error. If those were included in the vote totals, she says, she would have won. 

Lofgren named House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) specifically as displaying a willful ignorance of how the process works, given that he served on both the House Administration Committee and a special task force with her to examine a disputed election in 2006. 

In that case, concerning the congressional race in Florida’s 13th district, Democrat Christine Jennings filed a claim under the FCEA focused on unmarked ballots and voting machines in Sarasota County after losing by less than 350 votes to Republican Vern Buchanan. The House ultimately confirmed the state’s certification of Buchanan and dismissed the claim. 

McCarthy said then that the public could be “proud” to know that every vote was counted, Lofgren recalled. “Why would he not wish for that same standard in Iowa’s Second District?” she asked.

While the process is not especially rare for the House — there is another FCEA claim before the same committee right now that Republicans don’t seem to care about — GOP leadership is seizing on the case to both rewrite history around the 2020 election and make Democrats too uncomfortable to ultimately seat Hart, no matter how the probe goes.

They’ve been pushing the narrative that by hearing the case, and by possibly eventually seating Hart, Democrats are no better than former President Donald Trump, who attempted to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a chamber away from the drama, nevertheless took time during a hearing on the S1 voting rights bill Wednesday to accuse Democrats of “going against everything they’ve been preaching in the last two months.”

The other primary Republican talking point is that the House committee should toss out the case because Hart didn’t contest the election in state court first. Lofgren pointed out in her statement that there is no statute requiring Hart to do so, and that even if she had, the House committee would not have been bound to the court’s judgment. 

The Republican argument has ricocheted around the right-wing media ecosystem, with nearly daily pieces from the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages framing the process as a diabolical and hypocritical Democratic plot to steal back a seat and beef up their slim House majority.

The strength of Hart’s case is yet to be seen, and it’s historically rare for the House to seat the candidate that was not certified by the state. But then again, most races before the committee didn’t come down to so few votes. 

“I urge Republicans to end their coordinated public campaign – filled with the same dangerous rhetoric and baseless accusations of ‘stealing an election’ that contributed to a deadly riot in the Capitol  – and instead join us in a deliberate and dispassionate examination of the facts before the Committee,” Lofgren said. 

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