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Democrat Rita Hart ends challenge to House election she lost by six votes

Republicans were trying to use the ongoing investigation as evidence that Democrats are hypocrites.
Rita Hart speaks with a reporter at her farm in Wheatland, Iowa, in 2019.
Rita Hart speaks with a reporter at her farm in Wheatland, Iowa, in 2019.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Democrat Rita Hart announced Wednesday that she will abandon her effort to get Congress to recount the ballots in her congressional race, which she lost by six votes to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

The reversal comes as the House Administration Committee was progressing on its investigation into the election results after Hart contended that 22 legal votes had gone uncounted. The investigatory process was expected to take several months.

“After many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest, I have made the decision to withdraw my contest before the House Committee on Administration,” Hart wrote in a statement.

Republicans sought to cast her litigation as Democratic hypocrisy for trying to undo a state certification of an election after Democrats criticized 138 Republicans for objecting to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6.

“Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans. It is a stain on our democracy that the truth has not prevailed and my hope for the future is a return to decency and civility,” Hart said in her statement.

Hart asked the House, which is controlled by her own party, to use its authority to investigate the vote count, contending that if the 22 uncounted ballots were tallied, she would be declared the rightful winner.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the chair of the House Administration Committee, said in a statement that the committee will “dispose of the contest and adopt a dismissal resolution reported out by the Committee.”

Congressional reviews are common and allowed under federal law. Only three times has an outcome been overturned.

But this year, the rather routine review process has become more political, fueled by former President Donald Trump's unsuccessful effort to get Congress to overturn his electoral defeat and refuse to certify President Joe Biden's victory.

Moderate Democrats had expressed reservations about Congress taking up the challenge in part because of the highly charged politics of the era.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., traveled to Iowa on Wednesday and held an event with Miller-Meeks, trying to turn a seat his party won by just six votes into a charge of hypocrisy against Democrats.

McCarthy claimed victory, tweeting a picture of himself and Miller-Meeks and saying in a statement, “Rita Hart and Nancy Pelosi finally heard what many Iowans told me today: Mariannette Miller-Meeks is the duly-elected Congresswoman serving Iowa’s Second Congressional District. Pelosi’s attempted power grab failed. And Iowans and America are better off because of it.”