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Mariannette Miller-Meeks

OTTUMWA — In July, Iowa Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said she was thinking about running for Congress in the wake of Rep. Dave Loebsack’s decision not to seek re-election in 2020. Six weeks later, she’s in.

Miller-Meeks, who won her seat in the Iowa Senate in 2018, said the Democratic Party’s presidential debates played a role in making up her mind. When the candidates voiced support for Medicare for all, it nudged her toward making another run.

“They made it a campaign issue,” Miller-Meeks said. “[The debates] decided that it was going to be a big issue again, even though a lot of us thought that was settled.”

The failure of Congress to pass the USMCA trade agreement, a successor to NAFTA, also frustrated Miller-Meeks. She said things Iowa needs, including that agreement and legislation to address prescription drug prices, are not getting done.

Miller-Meeks said she will probably suspend her ophthalmology practice early next year as she gears up for the race. The new year also brings another legislative session. Miller-Meeks serves on the Iowa Senate’s appropriations, commerce, and state government committees, and is chair of the human resources committee and vice chair of the veterans affairs committee.

The first sign Miller-Meeks was considering a race came when she resigned her seat on the Republican Party’s state central committee. This will be Miller-Meeks’ fourth bid for the seat, though the first since the 2014 campaign.

Tuesday’s announcement sets up a primary contest against Robert Schilling, who previously served in Congress as the representative from Illinois’ 17th congressional district. He lost re-election in 2012. He moved to Iowa in 2017 and announced his candidacy in July.

The Democrats face a primary as well. Rita Hart, Fred Hubbell’s running mate in his 2018 bid for governor, and Newman Abuissa are seeking their party’s nomination.

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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