IOWA CITY, Iowa – Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks remains atop Iowa's 2nd District congressional race despite a Saturday recount in Clinton County that eroded her already single-digit lead to just six votes.
The Clinton County tally concluded a recount in the 24-county southeast Iowa district. The vote will go to a state canvassing board Monday to be certified, which would make Miller-Meeks the official winner.
In a statement, Democrat Rita Hart's campaign manager, Zach Meunier, did not say whether the campaign will file a legal challenge in the race, the closest House election in the nation. That would trigger a review by a judicial panel and cast continued uncertainty over the outcome.
"When we began this recount Rita Hart was down by 47 votes," Meunier said. "As more ballots have been counted, the margin has narrowed dramatically and is now down to a mere 6 votes — making this the closest Congressional race in recent history, and one of the very closest in the last hundred years.
"Unfortunately, as this process continues, the Miller-Meeks campaign has sought to keep legitimate votes from being counted — pushing to disqualify and limit the number of Iowans whose votes are counted," he said. “We will closely review what the county and state boards do on Monday with an eye toward making sure all Iowa voices are fully and fairly heard.”
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In her own statement, Miller-Meeks thanked the auditors’ staffs and volunteers who conducted the election and recount, saying “they personify the words 'public servant’ and ‘engaged citizenship.’“
“While the race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner ... on Monday,” Miller-Meeks said. “It is the honor of a lifetime to be elected to serve the people of eastern and southern Iowa. Iowans are tenacious, optimistic and hard-working, and I will take those same attributes to Washington, D.C., on their behalf.”
Pending the outcome of any legal challenge, Miller-Meeks will replace retiring seven-term U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat.
Depending on the results of any legal action, Democrats, who held three of Iowa's four congressional seats going into the 2020 race, will fall to just one when the new Congress is seated in January.
The narrow outcome of the race between Hart and Miller-Meeks gained national attention after Democrats saw their hold on the U.S. House unexpectedly narrowed in the 2020 vote. Despite Democrat Joe Biden's presidential win, Republicans claimed at least nine House seats formerly held by Democrats.
Saturday's count took place around folding tables in a secured room of the Clinton County administration building. Despite the high stakes, Clinton Auditor Eric Van Lancker said the room Saturday was “very quiet.”
The recount board met at 8:30 a.m. under the fluorescent lights to count the final few boxes of the county’s more than 16,000 absentee ballots. A handful of staffers from both campaigns were present to watch the proceedings in the room surrounded by voting machines, temporary handicap “reserved parking” signs and red traffic cones.
Van Lancker said the recount considered three more ballots than were tabulated on election night. He said that was likely due to some ballots in Dewitt being placed with other ballots and not being run through the vote tabulator.
Follow Zachary Oren Smith on Twitter: @ZacharyOS.
This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: Iowa recount: Republican leads congressional race by 6 votes