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Iowa Democrat Wins Special Election Amid GOP Attacks on Support for Transgender Rights

Ally Boguhn

Meanwhile, an anti-choice activist won a Missouri special election by fewer than 300 votes.

Democrat Phil Miller was victorious in Tuesday’s special election for Iowa’s House District 82, despite a targeted GOP campaign to criticize his support of protections for transgender people.

Elsewhere, Democrats in Missouri failed to flip a seat that will now be held by an anti-choice activist.

Advertisements paid for by Republican candidate Travis Harris’ campaign and the Iowa Republican Party attacked Miller, the Fairfield school board president, for voting in favor of a policy allowing students to use the restroom corresponding with their gender identity. “We can’t afford to trust his poor judgment,” the ad said.

LGBTQ rights group One Iowa said in a statement published by Iowa Public Radio that the ad was “recklessly fueling rhetoric that contributes to harassment and violence that transgender people face.”

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Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which aims to help elect Democrats to statehouses across the country, celebrated Miller’s victory. “DLCC is putting Republicans on notice—tonight’s victory in a district Trump won by 21 points just last fall is a testament to Democrats’ strength in deep red districts, and with Representative-elect Miller in the Iowa House we’re one step closer to regaining the chamber,” Post said in a statement.

The DLCC had highlighted the HD-82 election as a “Spotlight Race,” part of the organization’s efforts to “bring national attention to the strong, progressive candidates who are on the frontlines of the fight.” According to its website, the DLCC gives its candidates “resources, field support, and the data they need to run smart, winning campaigns.”

The Iowa seat was left open following the death of state Rep. Curt Hanson (D) in June.

Democrats failed to flip a seat in Missouri’s House District 50 on Tuesday when Republican Sara Walsh won her race against Michela Skelton. Less than 300 votes separated the two as of Wednesday morning, according to a report from local ABC News affiliate KMIZ.

Skelton’s campaign had the backing of progressive group Our Revolution, which was created to harness the grassroots energy of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Our Revolution: Mid-Missouri, the local affiliate, held regular phone banking and canvassing events on behalf of Skelton, according to a press release on its involvement in the race.

“Michela Skelton’s campaign embodied everything that the progressive movement stands for and proves our message resonates in every corner of the country,” Our Revolution Executive Director Shannon Jackson said in a statement. “Although her campaign didn’t win this time around, Skelton has inspired a powerful local movement that will be a force for years to come.”

Walsh’s campaign site highlights her opposition to abortion rights as a key issue, vowing to “advocate for protecting human life and ensuring no public funds are used for abortion.” Her biography notes that she has a long history as an activist within the anti-choice movement, having served as a board member for Missouri Right to Life and a volunteer for a local crisis pregnancy center, or fake clinic, in Jefferson City.

Skelton’s website notes that she had been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri and Planned Parenthood Great Plains. Among the issues highlighted on her campaign’s site were a commitment to “fight for paid family leave, higher wages and expanded access to health care so every worker has the freedom to care for themselves and their families.”

The Missourian reports that Skelton plans to run for the seat again in 2018. “We are going to keep fighting for 2018,” she told the outlet. “I am going to show the people that when they want someone to show up and hear them, it’s going to be me.”

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