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Candidates In Iowa's 2nd District Separated By 282 Votes

Candidates Rita Hart, D - Wheatland, and Iowa Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R - Ottumwa, answered questions from reporters and discussed their platforms, concerns and future plans. David Yepsen, host of Iowa Press on Iowa PBS, moderated the debate.
Iowa PBS
As of early Wednesday morning, just 282 votes separate Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former state Sen. Rita Hart in the race for Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.

Out of more than 393,000 votes cast in the race for Iowa’s 2ndCongressional District, less than 300 votes separate the candidates, Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart.

Preliminary results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office show Miller-Meeks leads Hart by just 282 votes.

As of early Wednesday morning, the Associated Press had not declared a winner in the race for the open seat in southeast Iowa.

According to the preliminary results, while Hart had carried the larger population centers of Scott, Johnson and Clinton Counties (where she lives), Miller-Meeks was able to run up the margins in more rural counties, and flipped some counties that voted for the now-retiring Rep. Dave Loebsack in 2016 and 2018, including Muscatine, Des Moines, Lee and Wapello.

How many votes separate the candidates could change as local election officials proceed with the usual process of reviewing results (and correcting errors, if needed), adding any provisional ballots, and counting late-arriving absentee ballots in the coming days.

Still, Miller-Meeks declared victory before a gathering of supporters in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“We know this has been a long night and we knew that this could be a very tight race and we wouldn’t know results until later. But with 282 votes from the Secretary of State’s Office ahead of our opponent, you are now looking at the new congresswoman from the 2nd Congressional District of Iowa!” she said, as supporters cheered.

Hart’s campaign issued a brief statement early Wednesday morning calling the race “too close to call” and noting that votes continue to be counted.

“Ballots are outstanding and over the coming days we will ensure that Iowans’ voices are heard and that remaining votes are counted. Iowa election law is incredibly clear that absentee ballots postmarked by the day before the election and received by a county auditor by November 9, 2020 must be counted,” reads a written statement from Hart’s campaign manager Zach Meunier.

Under state law, county auditors will continue counting mail-in ballots that arrive in their office until noon on Monday Nov. 9, as long as they have been postmarked before Election Day.

All results are unofficial until the canvass of votes on Tuesday Nov. 10.

The race between Miller-Meeks, an Army veteran, ophthalmologist and former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, and Hart, a retired educator and farmer and former candidate for lieutenant governor, was rated a toss-up.

Under the seven-term tenure of Loebsack, the district had long been considered a safe seat for Democrats.

Editor's note: a previous version of this story implied that the AP had declared this race "too close to call". This phrase refers to a formal declaration by the outlet, which has not been made in this race.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter