Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer’s 1st District is home to a crucial constituency for Democratic presidential candidates working to win the Iowa caucuses and beyond, and on Thursday, at the start of Joe Biden’s four-day swing in the state, he got a leg up there.
“Joe Biden’s character, record, and commitment to rebuilding the backbone of the country — the middle class — is what Iowa and this country needs,” said Finkenauer, in a press release endorsing the former vice president. “It’s time we have leadership in the White House who believes in the value of not only uniting a divided Congress, but uniting our country through common sense, dignity, and respect.”
Despite his high name recognition and past presidential campaigns, Biden is tied for third place with Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register’s November Iowa Poll. Nationally, however, he is leading the Democratic field by a decent margin in all recent polling.
Finkenauer is the first of Iowa’s three Democratic representatives to endorse a presidential candidate this cycle.
Her Eastern Iowa district will be especially critical in the general election this year as Democrats fight to win back the state from President Donald Trump, who in 2016 carried all four of the congressional districts. Whoever performs well in the labor-heavy 1st District in February could move forward in the early primary states with a message of winning over blue collar Democrats and disaffected Trump voters.
I get asked all the time if so and so is a big Iowa endorsement or not…
This is a big Iowa endorsement. https://t.co/4uHft0DYzm
— Sean Bagniewski (@bagniewski) January 2, 2020
The district includes the larger cities of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo/Cedar Falls, and rural counties in Northern and Eastern Iowa.
After two election cycles voting for President Barack Obama — the widest margin was 17 percentage points in 2008 — the district supported Trump by 4 percentage points in 2016.
Finkenauer’s Dubuque County narrowly voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, 47.2% to 46%. In 2012, Dubuque County supported Obama 56.6% to Republican Mitt Romney’s 42.1%. And in 2008, Obama won 56% of the vote compared to Republican John McCain’s 39%.
Finkenauer, and fellow Iowa freshman Rep. Cindy Axne, were critical to flipping the U.S. House for Democrats in 2018, and are central to the party’s strategy moving into 2020. The Iowa women have the ear of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and likely will be active on the campaign trail for the eventual Democratic nominee.
Finkenauer’s support for Biden speaks to her reputation as a more moderate Democratic member of Congress, willing to work across the aisle while others take more hardline, ideological stances. In the Democratic primary, Biden has pitched himself as the candidate best suited to unseat Trump and leverage his relationships in Congress to pass progressive legislation.
Her own personal story, that of growing up in a union, working-class family in a blue-collar town, also closely reflects Biden’s own upbringing and personal political biography.
“I was raised in a small town in rural Iowa, where my family instilled in me the importance of hard work, caring for others, and most importantly the value of public service,” Finkenauer said. “I take those values with me every day in Washington, where I have made improving the lives of Iowa’s working families my top priority.”
The second-youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Finkenauer first made a name for herself in Iowa politics when she was elected at age 25 to represent House District 99 in 2014. In the Iowa House she was an outspoken advocate for unions and labor issues, taking a prominent stand against Republicans’ 2017 bill to dismantle collective bargaining.
In 2019, she hosted a labor-focused fish fry fundraiser with eight presidential candidates and several national labor unions. She also attended the Teamsters’ six-candidate presidential forum in Cedar Rapids.
Friday morning, Finkenauer will introduce Biden at the University of Dubuque for their first joint event. Biden has several events throughout Finkenauer’s 1st District through the weekend.
The pair go back to Biden’s 2008 run for president when Finkenauer worked on his campaign. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Biden, Finkenauer and gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell held a rally that drew more than 2,000 people in Cedar Rapids.
‼️ Endorsement alert – Vice President Joe Biden is on #TeamAbby! The VP has spent his career standing up for working families and I'm honored to have his support to take back #ia01 pic.twitter.com/9JMbKrQJjK
— Abby Finkenauer (@Abby4Iowa) June 3, 2018
“She comes from really good stock,” said Biden in Cedar Rapids. “But I tell you what, she’s tough, she’s honorable, she’s serious and she’s thoroughly authentic.”
As the former vice president noted, Biden and Finkenauer both were 29 when they were first elected to Congress. When she introduced him at the “Get Out the Vote” rally in October 2018, one week before Election Day, Finkenauer called Biden “my friend.”
In 2014, when she ran for a seat in the Iowa Legislature, Finkenauer wrote in a tweet: “Proud to have worked for @JoeBiden. Taught me to stand up for working class values and fight inequality. Thanks, VP.”
By Elizabeth Meyer