State Representative Ashley Hinson of Marion has filed official papers to make a run for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District. The filing appeared online this morning, two days after Hinson posted about a four-day trip she recently made to Washington, D.C.
A run by Hinson had been speculated during most of this legislative session, though she seemed intent on waiting after the session had adjourned. She doesn’t appear to have an active website up yet, nor has there been any official announcement yet that Starting Line has seen.
A two-term state representative first elected in 2016, Hinson has proven a formidable candidate in two races and an ambitious member of the Iowa House. Her suburban Cedar Rapids district, which contains Hiawatha and Marion, is the kind of seat that has been quickly trending Democratic in recent years (Hillary Clinton carried it by two points). However, Hinson won her first election in 2016 by 25 points, and prevailed by four in 2018 despite facing a strong Democratic opponent.
Part of Hinson’s popularity is thanks to her time spent as a reporter and news anchor at Cedar Rapids’ KCRG. That gives her significant name recognition throughout Iowa’s 1st District, which the Cedar Rapids media market overlaps with almost entirely.
But while Hinson has some electoral strength in the very area Democrats are improving in, there aren’t many suburban-type communities outside her Linn County base. Most of the 1st District is blue-collar or rural, with a few communities of color in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. That better fits Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer’s profile, who grew up in a union family and promoted her working-class background in her 2018 campaign that saw her oust incumbent Rod Blum. Finkenauer has since had a successful several months in Congress, quietly earning some leadership positions both on committees and within her party.
And though Hinson has at times attempted to present herself as a more moderate, bipartisan Republican, her voting record in the Iowa House has been anything but. While she told her constituents she used Planned Parenthood services herself and wanted to maintain women’s health services, she voted to defund the organization and end state funding for Planned Parenthood’s sex education programs.
There’s still a good chance that Hinson faces a difficult primary in her goal of taking on Finkenauer. Blum has been making frequent appearances at local Republican Party events throughout the 1st District, and still sounds like a candidate on his Twitter feed. Hinson seems like the preferred choice of the NRCC, but Blum’s remaining name I.D., ability to self-fund, and loyalty to Donald Trump should make him a strong contender in the race.
If Blum does also run, that could set up an intriguing dynamic for Iowa Republicans in both the congressional seats that Democrats flipped in 2018. Former Congressman David Young has launched a campaign in the 3rd District, where he’ll face State Senator Zach Nunn, a younger up-and-comer in the party. In both primaries, Republicans could be faced with a choice between the young, fresh face of the party or a recent former member of Congress.
Hinson’s decision to run for Congress also significantly boosts Democrats’ chances of retaking the Iowa House in 2020. Her district is one of the few suburban seats in Iowa that did not flip to a Democrat last year. Had she stayed in place, Hinson likely would have once again been very difficult to defeat. There should be no lack of potential competitive Republican candidates here, but it makes Democrats’ efforts to pick up four seats much more doable with this suburban district being open now.
by Pat Rynard