Two candidates are competing to represent Iowa's 1st Congressional District, which includes Iowa City, Davenport, Pella and Burlington in the southeast portion of the state.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is running against Democrat Christina Bohannan, a state representative and University of Iowa law professor, in the redrawn district.
To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent questions to all federal, statewide and Des Moines area legislative candidates running for political office this year. Their answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Early voting begins Oct. 19 for the Nov. 8 election.
Who is Christina Bohannan?
Where did you grow up? Rural Florida
Current town of residence: Iowa City
Education: Bachelor of science, University of Florida, 1994; law degree, University of Florida, 1997.
Occupation: Professor, University of Iowa College of Law.
Political experience and civic activities: Iowa House, 2020-22, University of Iowa Faculty Senate President, Iowa Women's Foundation.
Who is Mariannette Miller-Meeks?
Where did you grow up? My father was in the U.S. Air Force, and I grew up in California and Texas.
Current town of residence: I live in Ottumwa with my husband Curt, and hold a residency in Le Claire.
Education: I am a first-generation college student and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Texas Christian University. I later earned my Master of Science in education from the University of Southern California and my medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Occupation: Member of Congress, ophthalmologist
Political experience and civic activities: I was the first woman president of the Iowa Medical Society. I ran for Congress in 2008, 2010 and 2014. In 2010, Gov. Branstad asked me to become the Iowa Director of Public Health. I served in his administration for three years. I was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2018, representing District 41 that included parts of Wapello and Jefferson counties and all of Davis and Van Buren counties. I was elected to Congress in 2020.
What is the most important domestic policy you would champion in Congress?
Bohannan: Hospitals are closing in small towns across southeast Iowa leaving people without care, even in cases of emergencies. Our wages and benefits are worse than our neighboring states, which leaves many people without a living wage, and leaves many businesses without an essential workforce. We are also losing many of our rural schools due to inadequate funding. People can't live and work in our smaller towns if they don't have schools to send their children to, good jobs, and access to health care. In Congress, I will prioritize the revitalization of our small-town communities.
Miller-Meeks: One of my top priorities as a member of Congress is expanding our renewable energy sector cementing our energy independence. Since 2008, Iowa has been a net exporter of renewable energy by utilizing surplus resources in our state and by taking advantage of its geographic composure. I am committed to proving that clean, renewable energy is attainable for every state by using Iowa as a framework to show how it can be done. Iowa has shown that we can transition to clean energy sources without burdensome government regulations and mandates. Bolstering our renewable energy sector is crucial to leave a cleaner, healthier planet for our children and grandchildren, but it would also allow us to curb our energy reliance on countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and even Venezuela.
What is one specific piece of bipartisan legislation you would advocate for in Congress?
Bohannan: I believe in the dignity of hard work, and having visited with people throughout southeast Iowa, I know Iowans believe in that too. I will fight to ensure that Iowans have more to show for the work they do. I would work for bipartisan legislation to lower taxes on working people and the middle class.
Miller-Meeks: One piece of legislation that I am particularly proud to lead is the Safe Step Act, legislation which would improve step therapy protocols and ensure patients are able to access the best treatment safely and efficiently. Step therapy protocols can cause unnecessary delays in care, or worse, require patients to try ineffective and potentially dangerous medications before finding the treatment most suited to their needs. I introduced the Safe Step Act alongside Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Lucy McBath (D-GA) as a bipartisan, commonsense solution to help patients and ultimately lower the cost of health care services across the board.
Iowans are struggling with rising costs and inflation. What can Congress do to help them make ends meet?
Bohannan: One thing Congress can do is to crack down on corporate price gouging on groceries, gas, and prescription drugs — things my opponent voted against. Another is to freeze the gas tax. And finally, we need to make the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil and less vulnerable to supply chain issues by bringing more manufacturing jobs to this country. This will also create good jobs in places like Iowa.
Miller-Meeks: Inflation is the number one source of pain for families in Iowa, and Democrats have done nothing to address the issue — in fact, they continue to push policies that are making inflation worse. In just the last few months, Democrats have passed the “Inflation Reduction Act,” which actually does nothing to address inflation and instead funds a list of partisan projects, including adding an additional 87,000 IRS agents. Because of President Biden’s policies, gas prices are also skyrocketing which has spurred rising costs across the board. Democrats have created a stagnant economy deprived of solutions. To combat this problem we need to unleash American energy, cut superfluous government funding, bolster domestic manufacturing and prioritize American innovation.
Congress passed a bipartisan gun safety law this summer. What further action, if any, should Congress take to address gun violence?
Bohannan: There is widespread support for expanded background checks, one of the most effective ways to curb gun violence while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Miller-Meeks: In the Iowa Senate and U.S. House, I’ve been proud to defend the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and will continue to do so. We can further address gun violence by strengthening the NICS system to alert appropriate authorities about past criminal behavior without giving the government access to mental health records. We can better protect our communities and schools through legislation that I have introduced to allow states to use unused COVID relief funds for school safety measures. To address gun violence, it is imperative that we improve and expand access to mental health services, which is why I’ve supported several bills like the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Wellbeing Act.
Should Congress pass federal legislation addressing abortion, either to restrict the procedure or to preserve access?
Bohannan: My opponent co-sponsored a bill that would ban all abortions nationwide, without any exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the woman. This is an extreme position that takes away women's freedoms and puts their health at risk. I support federal legislation that would restore the law as it existed for 50 years before the Supreme Court overruled Roe vs Wade this summer. I also support legislation that would help avoid unwanted pregnancies by guaranteeing the right to contraception, which my opponent also voted against. I believe women should be free to control their own bodies and trusted to make these fundamental decisions for themselves.
Miller-Meeks: My voting record in Congress and the Iowa Senate is consistently and decidedly pro-life. Abortion should be illegal with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. I am a co-sponsor of a measure that would ban abortions nationally after 15 weeks, which is when an unborn child is pain-capable. That legislation would include exceptions of rape, incest and life of the mother. That proposal would not supersede states that have stricter restrictions.
What policies would you advocate for including in the next farm bill?
Bohannan: We need to make sure that the farm bill protects family farms and helps farmers to make more off of the crops that they produce. We need to bring down farmers' input costs by making sure that fertilizer and seed industries are competitive. I will fight to protect Iowa farmers and ensure they have fair markets for their products, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Miller-Meeks: The farm bill is a crucial piece of legislation and I’ve joined numerous roundtables, meetings, and panel discussions with farmers in Iowa to be sure I have a keen understanding of the issues they are facing. In next year’s bill, I will continue to make sure our major crop commodities, like corn and soybeans are protected. I’m also working to strengthen crop insurance, build upon existing energy title programs to support renewable energy production, and secure funding and support for biochar research at Iowa State University. In addition to bolstering policies that are already helping farmers, I am also working to expand rural development and rural broadband projects as well as to expand resources to combat foreign animal diseases.
What is your appraisal of the work of the Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol?
Bohannan: We must protect our democracy, and we must protect Congress from ever being physically attacked again. There must be a thorough, fair and nonpartisan investigation of the events of Jan. 6 and any other efforts to take away the American people's right to select our elected leaders. We must always ensure that our democratic ideals and values remain strong.
Miller-Meeks: I voted for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, which ultimately failed and did not pass, because I support the Capitol police officers who defended the building on that day. They were being blamed for a security breach and I did not feel that that was appropriate without some investigation. I think there’s legitimate information we need to have from the investigation. One of those things was, why wasn’t the Capitol more secure? I’m not in favor of a commission that has only a singular focus. I think there’s still people that should be interviewed and information that we have to know, I think we’ll go forward from there and continue to focus on what we’ve done in Iowa, which is to make sure our elections are secure and people have confidence and trust in our election system.
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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Meet 1st Congressional District candidates in midterm elections 2022