State Representative Abby Finkenauer has revamped her website and is accepting donations for a possible campaign in Iowa's first Congressional district. In a statement released today, the two-term House Democrat said,
"Hard-working Iowans deserve to be able to make a decent living that allows them to provide their families with opportunity and a good quality of life. But, too often, wealthy corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us, and the politicians allow it to happen.
"I am considering running for Congress because we need to change that.
"I will spend the next few weeks talking with my family in Dubuque and Iowans throughout the First District. Should I decide to run and have the honor of being elected, I will take the values I learned from my family and my experiences growing up in a blue-collar community to Washington. I will strive to be the fighter Iowa’s working families deserve."
Finkenauer has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. For now, her website contains little beyond a short bio, a "contribute" button, and a sign-up for supporters or volunteers. Her Facebook page and Instagram and Twitter accounts are still oriented toward an Iowa House campaign. Her YouTube channel doesn't have any videos talking about a Congressional race.
For those who wonder what a Finkenauer stump speech might sound like, I enclose below the audio and transcript of her remarks at a Democratic event in Des Moines on March 23. For further background, I added a video of one of her floor speeches during the Iowa House debate on the collective bargaining bill in February, and the bio that currently appears on her campaign website.
Finkenauer is only in her late 20s and her third year of service as a state lawmaker, but she has worked in the legislature off and on since becoming a page at age 16. Some might wonder, why the rush to run for higher office? She provided a clue in the interview she gave Elle magazine in 2015:
"People will say that it's not your turn. But it's never going to be your turn—ever. It doesn't matter if you're 16 or 60. It will never be your turn. There will always be somebody else with more experience or more of something. But you just have to decide to do it," she commands. "Just do it. Just jump. Put your name out there and see what happens. It doesn't have to be for state house. It doesn't have to be in the state legislature. It could be city council. It could be school board. It could be a local commission. Just do something. If you really care about something, get involved. We need you."
IA-01 is in the top tier of U.S. House seats Democrats are targeting this cycle. Its 20 counties contain 164,113 active registered Democrats, 144,584 Republicans, and 190,664 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, where Republican incumbent Rod Blum lives. Several other Democrats are considering the race. Last year, Blum ran about five points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried the district by 48.7 percent to 45.2 percent.
Abby Finkenauer speaking at the the Our Future--Iowa Starting Line fundraiser in Des Moines on March 23:
Finkenauer began by thanking Pat Rynard for inviting her to speak, and encouraging the audience to support his Iowa Starting Line blog. My transcript of the rest of her speech:
I just want to say, it feels so good to stand in a room full of great Democrats right now. [applause]
You know, I was probably like many of you in this room the day after the election, when I woke up and I realized Donald Trump was going to be my president. Rod Blum for me--for many of you, it would be David Young--was still going to be my Congressman, and that Republicans in the state of Iowa controlled everything at that Capitol. Now, I was pretty sad, and I gave myself a few days to be sad. I might have sat on my couch for about two days watching Netflix and eating Arby's with a hoodie on, if I'm gonna be honest. [laughter]
But then, I got up. And I got ready to fight. Because I knew the policies that Donald Trump stood for, that Rod Blum, David Young, and Steve King stood for, that the Republicans in that statehouse stood for, were policies that look to divide us, not unite us. They're policies that gave more to those who already have the most, and they're policies that play to people's fears, not their strengths. And they're policies that don't work for any of the families that I know. [applause]
You see, the families I know aren't the ones Rod Blum knows, the ones trying to make their Mercedes payments. The families I know are the ones, if they're lucky enough, are trying to make their mortgage payments at the end of the month, and maybe, maybe buy a case of beer at the end of the week and send their kids to baseball or softball practice.
The families I know want to shop, to live in an Iowa that can give them a good life. An Iowa very similar to--which is the one that my grandfather grew up in. He was from a small river town, Guttenberg--I don't know if any of you all are familiar with it. And was born--you know, didn't have two pennies to rub together. But moved to Dubuque, where he met my grandmother, and they had eight kids. Good German/Irish Catholic family in Dubuque with eight kids.
So, but he was able--you know, he didn't go to college, my grandmother didn't go to college. But he was able to become a firefighter, and eventually even Dubuque lieutenant firefighter, and even president of the Iowa Firefighters Association. And he believed in hard work. And he also, thankfully, had a job that valued that hard work, and a job that gave him good health care, good benefits. And thank goodness for that. Because one of those eight kids, my Uncle Jeff, at the age of five, they found out, all of a sudden he was paralyzed. They had no idea why. Later, when they did an autopsy years later, they found out it was a thing in his coronary artery, and there was a clog, and so he ended up completely paralyzed on his left side. They had to go to all the hospitals. They went to the University of Iowa finally, and they said well, we can't tell you what happened, but this is just the life he's gonna live.
Thank goodness for that health insurance that he had. Because if they would have been under the health insurance that Donald Trump wants to give to the entire United States, they would have been on a GoFundMe page, and my family wouldn't have had anything that they have now.
And you know, the best thing about my grandfather--he's who I learned how to be a public servant from, because he was a firefighter. So when he went into a burning building, he didn't ask, what gender are you? What color are you? What's your religion? Do you have a disability? He didn't care. That's not what you do when you're a public servant. You go help people, because that's your job. [applause]
And I grew up in a very, well, similar family. My father is a union pipe-fitter/welder. My mom works for the school district. I'm one of four [children]. We are all first-generation college. I still have, you know, about ten years--well maybe eight years now, left to pay on my student loans. But I was told, if you work hard, you get a good education, you can have a good life. That's how I grew up. And that idea that you work hard, you get a good education, you have a good life--we all know it, we don't like to necessarily talk about it, but we feel it in our bones--that's slipping away. And Rod Blum and those Republicans in the statehouse aren't lifting a finger to stop it. In fact, they're making it worse.
We've all seen it the last couple of months, you've all been paying attention. But--it's things like putting a billionaire in charge of our public school system who never set foot in a public school. They're doing things like going after Meals on Wheels--really? They're going after our veterans' housing. And now, they're pushing a health care plan which they can't figure out--you know, they have no idea what they're doing on that. But right now, it's about to take health care away from 24 million Americans.
And in the state of Iowa, we haven't raised our minimum wage in ten years, since I was in high school. [Voice from the crowd: "It ain't right."] Nope, it's not right. And you know what that means--that means, so people that I graduated high school with, who are 28, 29. Who moved away--they all, you know, they went to college, they moved away. They live in Austin. They live in Chicago. Some live in DC. Some live in Denver. They want to come home. They want to come home to Iowa. They're ready to get married. They want to have kids, they want to buy a house. They want to move home. And guess what, they can't do it because the wages in our state are so low. You can't make a life anymore out of making a living. And that's a problem.
But you know what? We still have hope. Because yeah, that idea--if you work hard, you get a good education, then you can have a good life--it's slipping away, but it's not gone yet. And we are going to have to do everything in our power the next year and a half to hold on to what we have and fight for a heck of a lot more. [applause]
Some of the reason I have hope is because I know so many of you in this room. You're my friends. I know the people in eastern Iowa. They're my family, they're my neighbors, and they are hard-working Iowans who care about people, who are honest, who are good people. We've gotta keep fighting. And we've gotta have those hard conversations with our friends who voted the other way. And we need to have them, because I've had them. And I will tell you what: they're feeling what they did. They regret it. They feel like they were duped, and they want to have that conversation. They are fed up and they are hurt by what they're seeing at that statehouse and in the U.S. House.
So have those hard conversations. Doesn't matter if you're Republican, Democratic, Green Party, Libertarian, who cares? We all want that same thing. We want that Iowa where if you work hard, get a good education, you have a good life. Talk to them about that. [applause]
And if you do, I have no doubt, we will move forward and we will be better, and we have got to keep fighting. And I hope you will join me, whether that be in the statehouse, or maybe the U.S. House. [applause] I can't wait to keep fighting, not just for you but alongside you, and thank you guys so much.
Iowa House Democrats video of Finkenauer during floor debate on one of the amendments to the bill destroying all meaningful collective bargaining rights for most public workers:
Bio from AbbyFinkenauer.com
In 2014, Abby was elected to represent Dubuque in the Iowa Legislature. She has become known as a staunch defender of working families and a vocal advocate for women. As government and policy decisions have made it more difficult each year for working Iowans to get ahead, Abby has been on the front lines fighting back and making sure hardworking Iowans have a voice and a vote.
In the State House Abby led the fight for Iowa’s working families, small businesses and main streets. Never one to back down from a fight, she has opposed massive corporate giveaways to out of state companies, fought to make high-quality healthcare available to all Iowans and supported affordable education for all students.
Abby comes from a working class family in Dubuque County. Her father was a Union Pipefitter Welder, her mother works for the Dubuque Community Schools. She learned the value of public service and giving back to the community from her family, particularly from her grandfather who was a Lieutenant in the Dubuque Fire Department. Politics and current events were always a topic of discussion when Abby was growing up, and her grandfather, father and uncles made sure she had a seat at the table as an equal. Her family taught her that when there is work to be done or a problem to solve you say “yes.”
Abby is the youngest of four siblings, all first-generation college graduates. She chose to stay in Iowa for college, earning her degree from Drake University, and although she still has over $15,000 is student loan debt she is committed to making our state a place where people of all ages can work hard, get a good education, and have a good life.
After college, she worked at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque with Jackson County, Jones County, Delaware County, Clayton County, and Allamakee County affiliate foundations. She currently serves on the board of Greater Dubuque Development Corporation. Recently, she received the 2017 “Rising Star Award” from the Democratic Activist Women’s Network (DAWN’s List), nominated by former President of the Iowa Senate, Senator Pam Jochum.
When considering running for Congress, Abby thought about her family and her friends in Dubuque and throughout the first district. She believes that hard work should be rewarded, and that affordable education and determination should give every family the chance to live their American dream here in Iowa. But too often, those who work hard and do the right things are taken advantage of by wealthy corporations and the politicians who protect them.
If elected to Congress, Abby will take the values she learned from her family and her experiences growing up in a blue-collar community to Washington, DC, where she will be the fighter Iowa’s working families deserve.