Democrats in Washington, DC and Iowa are now led by a pair of election deniers.
Following a disastrous cycle, Iowa Democrats have elected one of their party’s most prominent 2020 election deniers to helm them into a critical 2024. The decision comes weeks after House Democrats threw out their old leadership and elected veteran election denier Hakeem Jeffries to run their caucus.
In Iowa, Rita Hart — whose 2020 House campaign ended in a six-vote defeat at the hands of now-Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks — won a contentious vote held over Zoom to run the Democratic state party. In the months after the 2020 election, Hart mounted a dubious challenge to Miller-Meeks’s win where she asked the US House of Representatives to overturn her defeat and install her in office anyway. Hart’s failed power grab, led by Democratic super-lawyer Marc Elias, failed after it was roundly rejected by both Democrats and Republicans.
The 2022 cycle was a disaster for Iowa Democrats, who saw two longtime statewide incumbents fall to Republican challengers. The state’s only federally elected Democrat, Cindy Axne, lost to now-Congressman Zach Nunn. Adding to the incompetence, one of their top Senate candidates was briefly disqualified from running due to a failure to secure enough signatures.
Looking forward, some of Hart’s longtime foes think Democrats electing her is a sign of weakness for the party.
“Rita Hart was willing to throw out Iowa election laws to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” Republican lawyer Alan Ostergren told me. Ostergren was one of the key players in the legal battle against Hart’s attempts to overturn her electoral defeat. “That Iowa Democrats chose her to be the next leader of their party (the tenth in the last twelve years) is a sign of how desperate they are after their losses in 2022.” Luke Martz, an Iowa Republican consultant, added that this has been “absolute chaos and it’s glorious.”
Interestingly, one of the few bright spots for Iowa Democrats last year didn’t care to weigh in — even to help out her own campaign manager. Democratic state senator Sarah Trone Garriott defeated the state’s Republican Senate majority leader in November, and her campaign manager was one of the candidates Hart defeated to become chair. Garriott notably stayed out of the race and refused to endorse her campaign manager Brittany Ruland, who came in second.
One Iowa source told me that Democrats took a long break while counting their ballots, which reminded him of the state Democrats’ inability to properly count votes in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination battle. It’s been almost three years and there is still no certain winner. In fact, the Associated Press said that it will not declare a winner from the caucus, “given the remaining concerns about whether the overall results are fully accurate.”
Locally, Republicans are pointing to this battle as the latest in a series of missteps. “With Iowa Democrats, it’s every man for himself,” Martz told me. “You saw that today with one of their rising stars refusing to endorse her own campaign manager for chair, and we saw that last fall with Auditor Rob Sand refusing to lift a finger for their gubernatorial candidate.”
National Republicans, for their part, are elated at the news that the future of Iowa Democrats is up to Hart. “We look forward to assisting in Rita’s continued electoral failures,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Savannah Viar told me.