State Representative Abby Finkenauer will post another strong fundraising total for her bid to take on Congressman Rod Blum in Iowa’s highly-targeted 1st District. Finkenauer’s campaign tells Starting Line they raised over $480,000 in the 1st quarter of 2018, bringing her total raised during this cycle to $1.1 million.
That’s more than Monica Vernon, the Democrats’ 2016 nominee who was an excellent fundraiser in her own right, raised at this point in the 2016 cycle ($335,000 in 2016’s 1st quarter). It was also accomplished while Finkenauer was putting in many hours for her job up at the Iowa Statehouse – the legislative session runs from January to April or May.
Her campaign will also show more than $700,000 cash on hand, getting close to the $995,000 the incumbent Blum had reported at the end of 2017.
“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support for our campaign. Iowans are enthusiastic about our campaign for higher wages and better jobs, and they’re tired of politicians in DC taking advantage of us to line their own pockets,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “Congressman Blum talks about draining the swamp, but then he uses taxpayer dollars to promote his own business that puts the health and safety of Iowans at risk. If we’re going to drain the swamp, that starts with kicking Rod Blum out of office and replacing him with a voice for working families”
Finkenauer still faces three Democratic opponents in the 1st District primary to get past on June 5, though most political watchers believe she’ll win it. Thomas Heckroth has raised enough money to run a real campaign and fund TV ads, but he still lags Finkenauer by a decent margin in the fundraising race (he had $190,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017). And Finkenauer has built out a full field team for her effort to organize in all 20 counties of the district.
A financial edge in the general election might be necessary to oust Blum, a two-term Republican incumbent who has proved difficult to beat in this formerly-Democratic district. If Democrats hope to retake the U.S. House, they’ll need to pick up Iowa’s 1st District, which covers Cedar Rapids, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Dubuque and Northeast Iowa.
Blum won in 2016, 54% to 46% over Vernon, in a year where Donald Trump flipped many counties in the district from blue to red. The district contains many of the blue-collar workers who fled the Democratic Party – Finkenauer hopes her profile as a young legislator from Dubuque who was raised in a working-class, union family can win those voters back.
Finkenauer has actually significantly out-raised Blum with individual donors for her race, but Blum drops in $500,000 of his own money into his campaign every now and then.
Several recent polls have shown bad news for Blum. A PPP Poll commissioned by Progress Iowa found only 34% of district voters approved of Blum’s job performance, while 54% disapproved. That same poll also had 53% opposing the Republican tax plan and 31% supporting it. And a poll released by the DCCC showed Finkenauer leading Blum in a match-up, 47% to 41%.
Part of those poor ratings may be due to the various controversies the Republican has found himself in this past year. Blum angrily walked out in the middle of a local TV interview last year, leading to embarrassing national news coverage. And he also faces potential ethics questions after the AP found that he failed to disclose his business involvement in a shady internet company run by some of his staff.
The Cook Report lists Iowa’s 1st District as a toss-up and Politico listed it as one of their top 10 races to watch.
At age 29, Finkenauer would be one of the youngest members of Congress if elected. She has gotten support during her campaign from many unions and a number of national organizations like EMILY’s List, NARAL and End Citizens United.
by Pat Rynard