A hard-fought race for a southeast Iowa legislative seat is entering its final days, and the topic of transgender bathroom rights has emerged as an issue in the race.
Democrats and Republicans are both waging expensive races to fill the seat vacated with the death of Democrat Curt Hanson in House District 82. Some consider the race a bellwether for Democratic prospects after the Republican sweep of the state last fall.
Democratic candidate Phil Miller is school board president in Fairfield. Last year he voted for a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms based on their gender identity.
His Republican opponent Travis Harris attempts to use Miller's vote against him in a campaign ad.
“Phil Miller voted to allow students to use whichever bathroom they associated with their gender identity leaving students to feel 'embarrassed' and 'humiliated,'” the narrator says. “We can't afford to trust his poor judgment.”
In a statement, the LGBTQ rights group One Iowa calls the ad "dangerous" and cites the suicide of a transgender student in Fairfield earlier this year.
“By creating and publicizing this ad, Harris for Iowa and the Republican Party of Iowa are recklessly fueling rhetoric that contributes to harassment and violence that transgender people face,” the statement reads.
The advocacy group points out the Fairfield school board followed the Iowa Civil Rights Act and guidance from the Iowa Department of Education in approving its policy.
The special election is scheduled for Tuesday. The district covers Davis, Van Buren and parts of Jefferson counties, and is roughly evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents.