OTTUMWA — It may sound odd for a former state senator and recent candidate for lieutenant governor to say she needs to introduce herself to people, but that’s precisely what Rita Hart said she needs to do in Iowa’s Second Congressional District.
Hart is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the race, which will determine the successor to Rep. Dave Loebsack. Loebsack announced earlier this year he would not seek another term, surprising many. Hart was among those.
Jumping into a new campaign isn’t the first thing most candidates want to do after falling short in a grueling statewide contest. Hart admitted there “wasn’t much of a break” between the end of the gubernatorial campaign and her current contest, but said there was enough for her to be sure she wanted to take the shot.
“We’re very happy with the way things are going so far,” she said. The election is a year out and, while Hart does have a challenger for the party’s nomination, she benefits from being better known because of her prior terms in the Iowa Senate and as Fred Hubbell’s running mate in 2018.
Health care is the issue Hart said she keeps hearing about while campaigning. It’s a broad issue, though, one that touches on many different aspects of people’s lives. The cost of prescription drugs has people worried. So does the closure of rural hospitals, leaving many people with long commutes to get essential care.
That, Hart said, is a threat to the existence of some towns.
“If you cannot get access to health care, or if it’s unaffordable, it’s going to be hard to keep people in rural Iowa,” she said.
Solutions are tough, though. There’s little agreement between Republicans and Democrats on the right approaches. Hart thinks there is some common ground to work from with proposals like allowing Medicare to negotiate on drug prices. Transparency in billing is another, and she thinks once patients know what the costs are actually paying for some providers may have to lower their prices.
Hart said finding common ground was something she watched her parents try to do as she was growing up. They were political opposites, and had to find ways to disagree without having it become an issue that disrupted the household. What she learned is that when you are forced to engage in discussion, you wind up understanding your own views better.
“That’s a great advantage, I think. I was able to put that to use in my teaching career and as a state senator,” she said.
Her parents taught her another lesson, as well. Hart’s mother couldn’t speak much above a whisper. But, like moms everywhere, the children knew when she meant business.
“Sometimes,” Hart said, “it’s not about being the loudest voice in the room.”