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OTTUMWA — State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks has submitted her resignation to the Republican Party’s state central committee, and is exploring a new run for Congress.

Miller-Meeks won Iowa’s 41st Senate District in 2018. She had previously challenged Rep. Dave Loebsack three times for Iowa’s Second District congressional seat, most recently in 2014. That election saw Loebsack, a Democrat, retain his seat by about 14,000 votes.

Miller-Meeks announced her resignation by email Monday morning, saying she had sent it in a letter to Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kauffman:

“As I have continued to meet with people across Iowa's second district, I have been encouraged to run again for the 2nd congressional district seat being vacated by Congressman Loebsack. Given the conflicts exploring a congressional run would have with the work on the State Central Committee, I thought the most ethical decision would be for me to resign while I determine if this is the best course for me and my family.”

In the letter, Miller-Meeks said she “had not anticipated a congressional run, given our successful legislative session,” but that she wanted to look at the option. The letter cited health care costs and immigration as issues of concern.

When reached by the Courier, Miller-Meeks said central committee members need to be neutral, advancing the goals of the party rather than specific candidates. She said that meant she needed to pick one or the other, and decided to explore a run for the seat.

It wasn’t a decision Miller-Meeks anticipated having to make. She said she enjoyed working in the Iowa Senate and, “up until June,” another run for Congress was not in her plans.

Miller-Meeks serves on the Iowa Senate’s appropriations, commerce, and state government committees, and is chair of the human resources committee and vice chair of the veterans affairs committee. The latter has long been a focus of Miller-Meeks’ political career, having served in the U.S. Army.

Miller-Meeks previously served as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. She was appointed to the position by former Gov. Terry Branstad.

The race for Iowa’s second congressional district is closely watched. It is an open seat, with Loebsack retiring. Rita Hart, who was Fred Hubbell’s running mate in an unsuccessful bid for Iowa’s Lt. Governor in 2018, has announced her plans to seek the seat as a Democrat.

Newman Abuissa, a transportation engineer from Iowa City, has also announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination.

Bobby Schilling is the only announced Republican in the race. Schilling, who once represented an Illinois district in Congress, moved to Iowa in 2017 and announced his plans to seek the seat.

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