Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer and former Vice President Joe Biden have a lot in common.
Finkenauer calls Biden a scrappy kid from Pennsylvania. Biden points out that Finkenauer was the second-youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Finkenauer is the daughter of a union pipefitter, while Biden was once one of the youngest U.S. senators ever elected.
Those connections are part of what drew Finkenauer to endorse Biden before she jumped on his four-day bus tour across eastern and central Iowa.
“Abby and I, we come from similar backgrounds in that we were raised by parents and grandparents who taught us even though we didn’t have a whole lot, we could be anything we wanted to be,” Biden said in Cedar Rapids on Friday afternoon. “I mean, for real — at least that’s how I was raised. My guess is, that’s how each one of you was raised.”
Understanding the working class, said 57-year-old Steve King (not that one) of Marion, is important in swing districts like Iowa’s 1st.
“That’s the kind of thing that’ll ring true with a lot of American voters around the country,” King said.
The connections among Biden, Finkenauer and labor will matter to voters, he said.
“It means a lot to me and it means a lot that she’s endorsing him,” King said. “It really holds a lot of weight.”
Rev. John Taylor, pastor at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Dubuque, is an former union president. He said Biden and Finkenauer’s message to laborers will resonate in Northeast Iowa.
“If you look around the 1st District, that’s all you see is hardworking Iowans,” Taylor said. “I think Iowans have been wooed by the guy that’s in the White House now as to what he was going to do for this country, and it’s been a cruel joke. He’s put farmers and farm families at risk.”
“There are so many foreclosures and bankruptcies now because of his policies and he really has no policies to speak of,” Taylor continued. “It’s just whatever strikes him, whatever whim crosses his mind in the wee hours of the morning and he tweets about it. Iowans for the most part are decent, working people and what we need back leading this country is someone who has those values, not someone who has everything given to them and they wasted it.”
RaeAnn Dickinson, 66, of Jackson County, said Finkenauer’s endorsement was great for Biden.
“She’s proven herself to do a great job in Congress,” Dickinson said. “And I know people respect her, so I’m sure that many people are looking at this.”
She is hopeful 31-year-old Finkenauer’s endorsement influences some young voters. Dickinson, a precinct captain in Jackson County, said she had few young people on her list to call for help recruiting caucus-goers.
“I’m 66 and I vowed I wouldn’t canvass four years ago,” Dickinson said. “But I did. And I may have to go down and do some canvassing this year.”
Steve Mineck, of rural Vinton, agreed.
“I’m 70. She’s half that or less,” Mineck said about Finkenauer. “I think we need more young people in government. We need to more than likely throw a lot of old folks out. I’m serious. There are people that have been there forever and treat it like it’s a career rather than a job that the rest of us put them into, and the only reason they’re able to hang on to it is because they’ve got their hand out the back taking money from big companies that are financing their campaigns.”
Finkenauer later said she wasn’t sure what role she could play in influencing young people to vote, but noted she first met Biden when she was young.
“I heard [Biden] talk about families who were worried about having babies premature because they might go bankrupt, or talking about issues that really mattered down to the kitchen table, not just abroad, and that’s what really did it for me,” Finkenauer said. “He’s somebody who really gets it, who actually understands every single policy made in Washington regardless of the numbers or this or that. It all comes back to how it affects folks around their kitchen tables in this district, and that’s something I understood from him back in 2007.”
Finkenauer said her decision to endorse Biden started at her Fish Fry back in October.
“I wanted to have a forum set up where I brought up organized labor and our union members so that they could ask questions, but really keep it focused on infrastructure and jobs,” Finkenauer said.
Voters at the Fish Fry got to hear from eight candidates. But Biden was the one who followed up.
“A week after that actually, Vice President Biden came out with his infrastructure plan and it told me that he listened, that he understood how important this is for the 1st District, for Iowa, for our country, and that he took it seriously and that, to me, meant a whole heck of a lot,” Finkenauer said.
Finkenauer credits her late grandfather, Ron Kann, for first introducing her to Biden in 2007.
During the early stages of the Iowa Caucus race that cycle, Biden was scheduled to come by the Statehouse, where Finkenauer was serving as the Speaker’s page at the time. She wasn’t familiar with Biden in a year where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was getting all the spotlight. But her grandfather called Finkenauer to encourage her to go see Biden.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know this senator from Delaware, but if pappa tells me I’ve gotta go listen to this senator from Delaware, I’ve gotta show up. So, I did,” she said, and she was impressed with his life story that sounded familiar to hers.
Kann ties Biden and Finkenauer in another way, too. He used to be a Dubuque firefighter.
The International Association of Firefighters endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign in 2019 and Finkenauer’s congressional campaign in 2018.
Finkenauer said it was her grandfather’s experience as a firefighter that taught her the meaning of public service.
“Our firefighters, I think, are some of the best examples of what public service is,” Finkenauer said. “You see, when my grandfather would get a phone call to run into a burning building, he didn’t call back and ask how much money do you make? Where are you from? What color is your skin? Who do you love? What’s your religion? He just showed up and he helped people. He did his job.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do for you every single day as your congresswoman,” she added. “That’s what we need in that U.S. Senate, and that’s why we must send Joe Biden to that White House.”
By Paige Godden