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State Rep. Christina Bohannan Launches Bid For Iowa's 2nd Congressional District

Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannan has announced her bid for Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks for the southeast Iowa seat.
The Iowa Legislature
Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannan has announced her bid for Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks for the southeast Iowa seat.

Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannan announced Tuesday she’s running for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. A law professor and former engineer who lives in Iowa City, Bohannan is highlighting her rural, working class upbringing in her effort to retake the southeast Iowa seat, which until 2020 had been considered the state’s most reliably Democratic district.

Growing up in a trailer on a dirt road in a rural Florida town, the daughter of parents who never finished high school and worked low wage jobs, Bohannan says she knows what it’s like to struggle.

“Those kinds of struggles are things that people all over Iowa and in the 2nd District feel every single day,” Bohannan said.

When her father developed emphysema and subsequently lost his insurance, Bohannan’s family was forced to make a Hobson’s choice that the uninsured and underinsured know all too well, choosing between “paying for medication and paying for everything else."

“We never had much money,” she said. “When his health insurance was cancelled, things became really bad for us.”

Bohannan went on to become the first in her family to graduate college, putting herself through engineering school at the University of Florida while working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and ultimately graduating first in her class from UF’s College of Law.

She relocated to Iowa to begin teaching at the University of Iowa law school in 2000, raising her daughter in Iowa City.

Now she’s running to represent southeast Iowa in Congress, in a 24-county district that currently includes the cities of Iowa City, Davenport, Clinton, Burlington and Ottumwa, as well as many rural communities where manufacturing and agriculture are major industries.

If elected, Bohannan says she’ll support working class Iowans by pushing for greater investments to support schools and families, develop training programs for higher paying jobs and provide affordable healthcare.

“Whether it’s the pandemic or losing a job or a medical problem or something else, people have struggles. Things happen,” Bohannan said. “And I want to make sure that when things happen, they have a fair shot to make ends meet and to get back on their feet.”

A first-term legislator representing a district covering the northside of Iowa City, Bohannan successfully challenged 10-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Vicki Lensing in 2020, winning 66 percent of the vote.

In her brief time in the Statehouse, Bohannan has sponsored bills aimed at providing support to small businesses, expanding access to childcare, creating a pathway to parole for some Iowans sentenced to life in prison and boosting lead testing in schools and homes, among other issues.

Christina Bohannan for Congress--launch video

Bohannan is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who flipped the seat in 2020 by a mere six vote margin. The contested race was one of the closest in American history, and was set to be reviewed by the U.S. House, before Democratic candidate and former state Sen. Rita Hart withdrew her challenge.

Bohannan is presenting herself as an “independent voice” for the district, saying that Miller-Meeks has hewn too closely to bitterly divisive party politics, at a time when the Republican Party is riven by conspiracy theories that led to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

“There is just so much noise and confusion and misinformation and really heavily partisan politics in the country. And honestly I think it's really hurting the country,” Bohannan said. “I think that we need to focus on the real needs of people every day and not on getting the last shot in on some TV program or following the party line.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Miller-Meeks welcomed Bohannan to the race, but criticized her opposition to a ban on mask mandates and a so-called ‘Back the Blue’ bill.

“I am certain that the voters of Iowa’s Second Congressional District want a congresswoman who has proven her commitment to building a better future for working families, Iowa and the nation rather than one whose vision of the future is more division and social unrest, less support for law enforcement, and less personal freedom for those of us who play by the rules,” Miller-Meeks’ statement reads in part.

Democrats have seen a string of losses up and down the Mississippi River in recent years as once-dependable voters in blue color, union strongholds turned out to vote for former President Donald Trump and other down ballot Republicans.

Bohannan says she’s eager to get out into the district and build relationships with community leaders and voters. She says she hopes to cut through the political partisanship that she says is contributing to “extremism."

“Some parts of the parties have really doubled down on partisan politics and that leads to extremism. And so I think that that's something that we really have to get to the bottom of,” Bohannan said. “I would work really hard to find as much common ground as I could, while also obviously standing up to some of those extremist elements and making sure that our democracy is protected.”

So far, no other Democrats have come forward to run in the district which had been considered the state’s most reliably Democratic.

With ties in rural and urban America, Bohannan says she hopes to be a “bridge” that can unite Iowans, pointing to the district’s history of being represented by moderates from both parties, with former Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack and former Republican Rep. Jim Leach before him.

“We can't all be so siloed, right?” she said. “That's not how Iowa is. And that's not what this district is. It's a very diverse district. We need a representative here who can cut across all of that and to be a bridge between different people and different backgrounds, because that's what our country needs right now.”

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter