Second-term U.S. House member Rod Blum could face second-term Iowa House member Abby Finkenauer in his reelection campaign in 2018. Finkenauer, the 28-year-old Democratic legislator from Dubuque, has been strongly considering a run against the Republican incumbent for several months now. Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, where Blum won by 53.7% to 46.1% over Monica Vernon in 2016, will likely be heavily targeted by both parties once again.
“I’ve been listening to my constituents and friends across the 1st District who are asking me to seriously consider running,” Finkenauer told Starting Line. “The 1st District [has] people who work hard, want a fair shot, and hope to be able to make a living that allows one day for a down payment on a house or to sign their kids up for baseball or softball and maybe even college. It’s how I grew up. I also grew up knowing that you step up where you’re needed … I’d say I’m to the point in the process where I’m ‘stepping up.'”
Finkenauer criticized Blum for not holding a “real public town hall” to hear from the constituents that are worried over Congress’ actions since the election. Blum’s first reelection in 2016 was expected to end up much closer than it turned out, but Donald Trump’s strong performance in Northeast Iowa boosted Blum’s victory.
Democrats, however, are cautiously optimistic about retaking the district next year. Republicans could see a union backlash in the labor-heavy 1st District after the Iowa Legislature’s actions this week to gut the state’s collective bargaining law. And a recent Des Moines Register poll pegged Trump’s approval rating in the state at 42% approval, 49% disapproval.
Still, there’s lingering concern that Democrats’ erosion among blue collar voters may not snap back as quickly as needed for the party to win back key seats here in 2018.
“I think we need to really go back to our roots of being the party that understands what it’s like to be working class, to say, you know, the system isn’t working for everyone and our wages are way too low and our families and neighbors are struggling,” Finkenauer said. “We also need to not forget that we can fight for better wages, better education, but also equality and inclusiveness. There’s room for everyone and I’m not going to forget that, and our Democratic Party can once again be a place of hope and champions for all families who deserve a fair shot.”
Iowa’s 1st District appeared on the DCCC’s first round of targets for the upcoming cycle. The DCCC has also launched a “March into 2018” program, which includes putting an early organizer on the ground in the 1st District to begin mobilizing Democrats now. They’re also directing digital ads toward people who might be getting involved in political activism in the district for the first time.
Finkenauer believes state and national Republicans’ deceptions in the past election cycle will create a more favorable climate for Democratic candidates in 2018.
“The GOP campaigned as though they gave a damn about working families in Iowa and better education. They flat out lied,” Finkenauer explained. “The first bill we did in the Iowa House de-appropriated funding for vital programs due to the GOP policy of giving away tax cuts to large corporations and forgetting the people who voted for them. Now we see an attack on working families through the bill they proposed to gut collective bargaining. It’s wrong. It’s cowardly and it’s not who we are as Iowans.”
A run for Congress would mean Finkenauer would have to give up her Iowa House seat in Dubuque, which is heavily Democratic. And she’ll still need to win a Democratic primary, which is likely to see several contenders once again. Plans for such a campaign have been underway for several weeks now.
“I’m putting a team together, getting input from the hardworking Iowans within the district, and figuring out how to take this district back so it’s represented by someone who is willing to fight for the values of working families like the one I grew up in,” Finkenauer said.
Starting Line previously profiled Finkenauer in this post.
by Pat Rynard