Abby Finkenauer will launch the first TV ads of the general election in Iowa’s nationally-watched 1st Congressional District race this Tuesday. Her first spot on the airwaves is called “Dinner Table” and focuses on a spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation.
The ad begins with Finkenauer describing a typical Saturday night with her family while growing up: talking politics around the dinner table after getting back from church.
“We didn’t all agree,” Finkenauer says. “But nobody walked away angry, or not family anymore. That’s how it should be – at home, and in Congress.”
She goes on to explain that she’ll work with people of any party in Congress to help create good-paying jobs and lower healthcare costs.
Many candidates like to project a sense of bipartisanship in their messaging, but Finkenauer’s ad touches on something deeper. Her pitch here seems to not be just about what she’ll do in Congress to reach across the aisle, but how she hopes to restore a sense of civility in politics locally as well.
There’s no shortage of stories of families growing apart in the Donald Trump era over nasty, bitter political debates between parents and children, uncles and nieces and everyone else at family get-togethers. Thanksgiving dinners have become a minefield of division that some people now fear going to. That’s particularly true in Iowa’s 1st District, one where passion for Trump ran very high in 2016 and saw many longtime Democratic counties flip to red.
Finkenauer here looks to bring up some nostalgia for the days when politics didn’t drive friends and family apart, but instead focused on what local families needed help with to get by.
“This campaign isn’t about whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, it’s about standing up for who we are as Iowans,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “I’m excited to bring that message to voters over the final months of the campaign.”
Of course, much of attention on the 1st District race is about which party could control Congress. Incumbent Rod Blum is widely seen as one of the most endangered Republicans in the country. The race is rated a toss-up by many political ranking sites. Flipping the 1st District blue is one of the first priorities on Democrats’ list to winning a majority in the House.
Starting a full run of TV ads now is a little bit early in the cycle for congressional campaigns in Iowa. But Finkenauer has built a strong fundraising advantage over Blum, breaking Iowa fundraising records last reporting period with a $765,000 haul. As Finkenauer, a 29-year-old state representative from Dubuque, continues to build her national profile during the campaign, she’ll likely find raising money even easier.
It’s also not entirely clear what Republicans’ line of attack on Finkenauer will be. They’ve begun pressing her online a bit on some missed votes, but it’s not certain that’s what their main criticism on TV will focus on. If they go the typical route of painting Finkenauer as a liberal partisan based off the votes she’s taken in the Iowa House that aligned with her fellow Democrats, this ad should help preempt the amount of damage that could cause. Defining yourself early is important in races like these where the challenger candidate isn’t too well-known outside their home county.
The ad begins running on Tuesday in the Cedar Rapids market, which covers the vast majority of the 1st District.
by Pat Rynard