CEDAR RAPIDS — Nearly seven months out of office, former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer still sees “a lot to fight for” and this time she hopes to take the fight to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Finkenauer is launching her Democratic campaign today for a return trip to Washington because “politicians who've been there for decades don't really want people like us there (because) they think they own democracy and were silent when it was attacked.”
She includes Republican Grassley, who hasn’t said whether he’ll seek an eighth term in 2022, among those entrenched politicians who “are so obsessed with power that they oppose anything that will move us forward.”
“They’ve turned their backs on democracy,” she said in a campaign video. “They made their choice, and I’m making mine.”
Continuing a theme from her Iowa legislative and congressional campaigns, Finkenauer’s Senate campaign focuses on working families “who are oftentimes not heard in Washington.” What’s lacking in the nation’s Capital — among Democrats and Republicans, she said in an interview — is elected officials “who actually understand working families versus just reading about them.”
“When you understand those differences, you understand that there's a difference between the policies in Washington either making sure that you're able to fill your drug prescription that month or be able to have enough money to be able to take your grandkids out to dinner,” Finkenauer said. “It's quite frankly why we're doing this.”
Grassley’s campaign committee said Finkenauer’s agenda would allow the federal government “to control Iowans' lives with more taxes, regulation and big government.”
In what’s likely to be a preview of the Grassley campaign strategy, it branded the potential challenger as “another out-of-touch, out-of-office Democrat … too radical for Iowa.”
That’s why “Iowans fired her just last year, giving her the distinction as the first member of Congress from Iowa to lose reelection after just one term in more than 50 years,” Grassley Committee adviser Jennifer Heins said in a statement. “If you know Nancy Pelosi, you know Abby Finkenauer because she voted with Pelosi 93 percent of the time.”
2020 ‘a really tough year’
The 2020 election was a setback, Finkenauer said, but didn’t dull her passion to fight for working families.
“Hey, 2020 was a really tough year for Iowans. We had the pandemic, we had the derecho,” she said. “I was focused on making sure we did our job and didn't focus on the division that oftentimes we saw pushed by the other side, whether it was conspiracy theories or what have you.”
Special interests who disagreed with her votes — to raise wages, strengthen labor unions and reduce the price of prescription drugs — spent millions of dollars — “in my case, $5 million” — to defeat her.
Former state legislator Ashley Hinson returned the northeastern Iowa 1st District to Republican control when she defeated Finkenauer in the 2020 election.
“But they don't get to stop people from stepping up from Iowa for Iowa,” Finkenauer said. “It's why I ran for Congress in the first place. And it's why I'm running for the United States Senate.
“We are Iowans who actually care about each other … and have respect for your neighbors (and) don't think you're better than anybody else no matter what you do or where you go. Those are the values that I ran on. Those are the values that I'll be talking about all across the state and they're the values that I believe Iowans have and want to see in Washington,” Finkenauer continued.
“I’m going do everything I can to make sure that they know I'm somebody who's going to do the work and not just tweet out whatever seems to be the hot topic of the week.”
Finkenauer joins two more Democrats who want their party’s Senate nomination in the statewide race — Manning farmer and cattleman and former county Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer and Glenn Hurst of Minden. Muhlbauer has been actively campaigning since spring.
Saying a year is plenty of time for a campaign, Grassley, who has held elective office since 1959, plans to announce in October or November whether he’ll run again
“That guy’s ready to roll,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann recently said about Grassley.
If he runs, Grassley will start with more than $2.5 million in his campaign account, according to the latest Federal Election Committee report. While that is less than what he has had at this point in previous election cycles, Grassley has shown an ability to raise campaign funds.
Finkenauer has $29,814 in her Finkenauer for Congress account. She transferred $381,000 from her Victory Fund to affiliated committees.
In 2020, roughly $234 million had been spent on the U.S. Senate campaign that featured Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.
Finkenauer’s announcement came as no surprise to Kaufmann, and he welcomed her to the race.
“I just feel incredibly confident in Chuck Grassley against anyone, to be honest with you,” Kauffman said. Facing Finkenauer wouldn't be a political walk in the park, “but I'm telling you that I probably wouldn't wear the full suit of armor.”
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Ross Wilburn won’t comment on specific candidates until the party’s June 2022 primary is over. However, he issued this statement:
"Iowans are done with Chuck Grassley. They’ve seen his recent actions and know that he’s turned into the Washington insider he used to claim to fight against.”