Declaring that "Iowans need a fighter who is on their side" who "isn’t afraid to take on out-of-state corporate interests," State Representative Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque made it official this morning: she will run for Congress next year, rather than seek a third term in the Iowa House. Her campaign is online here, and she's on Twitter and Instagram @abby4Iowa and on Facebook at Abby4Iowa.
I enclose below Finkenauer's campaign announcement as well as parts of a passionate speech she delivered on the Iowa House floor last month. I also included excerpts from the transcript of last weekend's Iowa Public Television program featuring Finkenauer and State Senator Nate Boulton. Some of her remarks echoed themes she raised before a group of Democratic activists in Des Moines in late March. Bleeding Heartland published the full text and audio of that speech here.
Finkenauer joins Cedar Rapids-based engineer Courtney Rowe, the first Democrat to launch a campaign in IA-01. Former State Senator Steve Sodders recently ruled out running for Congress. Earlier this year, State Senator Jeff Danielson of Waterloo and Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson said they are considering this race, but to my knowledge neither has taken concrete steps toward a campaign yet.
Two-term Republican Representative Rod Blum is a top 2018 target for Iowa and U.S. House Democrats. The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 161,355 active registered Democrats, 143,269 Republicans, and 187,099 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, which is Blum’s home base.
UPDATE: Added below Finkenauer's statement after Blum voted for the American Health Care Act on May 4.
Excerpt from Finkenauer's remarks during the April 19 Iowa House debate on Senate File 471, a bill banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
We aren't just standing on the floor of the Iowa House. We are standing in the doctor's office of those future pregnant women. Standing there listening to one of the hardest things they've ever had to hear, when they hear that their very wanted baby, their dreams are going to be very different than they had ever imagined. One where, they're told possibly that it might not even survive to gestation. But yeah, we're gonna tell them what to do with their body.
Please think about what you're doing here today. You guys have your choices. You do. Let's keep it that way. I respect your opinions. I respect your beliefs. Respect me. Respect women. Respect their opinions, their beliefs, and respect the fact that they have the knowledge with their doctor and with their families to make these decisions. Get out of the doctors' offices today and vote no.
Excerpts from Finkenauer's comments on the April 28 edition of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program.
[Radio Iowa's O.Kay] Henderson: Representative Finkenauer, let's start with this question. What did democrats accomplish in the just concluded legislative session?
Finkenauer: Well, I will say this, we stood up for hardworking Iowans. When we saw everything the republicans threw at us this year and threw at people that are my friends, my neighbors and my family, from gutting worker's rights for 184,000 Iowans, from attacking worker's compensation, making it harder for hardworking Iowans who get hurt on the job to get the compensation they deserve, we stood up. [...]
Henderson: Representative Finkenauer, one thing that republicans at the national level have learned is if you promise to roll back things that the other party did, I'm thinking about Obamacare and you don't get it done, voters are very unhappy. Is there a danger for democrats to promise to undo the collective bargaining law that republicans passed, to undo the worker's comp changes that were made, that you could fall into that same trap as a Democratic Party at the state level?
Finkenauer: I think what we need to be focused on as democrats is how do we make it better, how do we move forward? And one of the things we absolutely can be focused on right now is raising wages in this state. Our wages are just abysmally low compared to other states. I have friends who have moved away who are 28, 29, they graduated college, they live in Denver, they live in Chicago and would love more than anything to come home to Iowa right now and they're looking at those help wanted signs every single day. And our wages, I'm not just talking minimum wage, it's all of our wages are very low. And yes our cost of living is lower here but it still doesn't make up for that. So it's one of those things we have to start talking about raising those wages and how do we move forward on that end as well and then taking care of our workers in that way. But yeah, at the same time that collective bargaining bill was done in a bipartisan way and it was one of the best pieces of legislation we had because it helped not just workers but it helped management as well, they wanted it.
[The Des Moines Register's Kathie] Obradovich: When it passed in the '70s?
Finkenauer: Yeah, yeah and it's going to require bipartisan, people working together again and getting things done for the state of Iowa. And if anything what we saw this last session, bipartisanship on the side of the republicans is slowly, well it's going away so there's not much there.
Obradovich: Some of the rhetoric I've heard from democrats though is the idea that republicans have defeated themselves by, as you said, overdriving their headlights and going too far, upsetting the sort of Iowans who expect incremental, modest change from the legislature. Do you feel like there's some sense of that in the Democratic Party that you can just sit back and let republicans kind of tie themselves up into a ball?
Finkenauer: No because if anything what we've seen, I grew up and I was told when there's work to be done you say yes and you do it, and after this legislative session it is clear there is so much work to be done for the state of Iowa. So the last thing I plan on doing is sitting back and watching it. We have to be involved, we have to be figuring out not just how do we fix what they just did to us, but how do we move forward and make the state a better place? [...]
[David] Yepsen: What is your take on why Hillary Clinton lost?
Finkenauer: I look at that and I look at why did democrats lose Iowa? Why did we lose Wisconsin? And I think it has a lot less to do with Hillary Clinton than it does about the fact that we had a national message saying that everything is great, we have great job numbers, everything is great. Yeah, so Obama did a great jobs and in terms of job numbers all of that, great. However, Iowa had been controlled by republicans for the last six years. Wisconsin has been controlled by republicans. So we haven't seen a minimum wage increase since when I was in high school when I was a Speaker's page sitting there when they raised the minimum wage. Life is tough for Iowans, it hasn't gotten any better. So when you have that dichotomy --
Henderson: So when you look to republicans to solve that, what new are you going to offer those formerly democratic voters? Look at Dubuque County, surprise, surprise, Donald Trump did very well there. So what do you need to do to change the ingredients for your soup to make them want to eat it again?
Finkenauer: Absolutely, it's the local message, it's the Iowa message, it's not the national message. It's not somebody saying it's working for the entire country. It's about what is working for Iowa. And the fact is, like we have seen the last six years, republican message, republican policies are not working for Iowans. So when we can sit down and we can talk about that and say yeah, I know you're struggling, yeah, I know you're hurting and yeah, I know your wages are low, not just the ones making minimum wage, all of your wages are low, we have to address it that way.
Obradovich: When you look at the future of the Democratic Party people say well, the demographics of the country are changing. Younger people are, they're more socially progressive, we have the growing aspect of the population is minorities. So do you feel like this is a bump in the road and that democrats really just sort of have to wait for the country to catch up?
Finkenauer: No. It's like the question before, are we just going to sit back and watch what republicans are doing and not do anything about it? No, that's not the answer. It's keep having those tough conversations with our friends and families who might have voted republican in the last election. And I have had those conversations and they're frustrated and they're hurt and they feel duped.
May 3 press release from Abby Finkenauer's campaign:
ABBY FINKENAUER: I’M RUNNING FOR CONGRESS BECAUSE IOWANS NEED A FIGHTER ON THEIR SIDE
DUBUQUE – State Representative Abby Finkenauer today announced she will be a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District in 2018. A life-long resident of Dubuque, Finkenauer announced the start of her campaign at the Dubuque Union Labor Temple. Later in the day, she will be making stops in Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Waterloo, and her hometown, Sherrill.
“Today I am announcing my candidacy for Congress in the 1st District,” Finkenauer declared. “I am proud to be from Iowa. I have made my home here in Iowa, and I have dedicated my life to helping make this state a place where everyone has a chance to succeed. I’m running for Congress because Iowans need a fighter who is on their side, and who isn’t afraid to take on out-of-state corporate interests drowning out the voices of the rest of us.”
Abby Finkenauer comes from a working class family in Dubuque County. Her father was a Union Pipefitter Welder and 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.
“I grew up in a working class family. This is personal. This is my family; these are my friends and my neighbors,” said Finkenauer. “From these amazing people, I learned the value of public service and giving back to the community. My family taught me that when there is work to be done or a problem to solve you always step up and say “yes.” Now, I’m saying yes to stepping up for working families in Washington.”
Finkenauer is a first-generation college graduate. She chose to stay in Iowa for college – earning her degree from Drake University. 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 the 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.
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.
Finkenauer continued, “Every day I’ve served in the Iowa House, I’ve fought for working families. I stood up to the Republican majority in Des Moines and their anti-worker agenda. I was proud to be a voice for the 180,000 public servants who were silenced in the workplace. I was proud to stand up for working men and women – like my father – when their workers’ compensation was gutted. I fought against massive corporate giveaways at the expense of programs for working families. Now, I plan to take this fight to Washington to ensure the hard-working people of the first district have a champion once again in Washington.”
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.
“While it is easy to be disheartened by politics, it is critical that we never stop fighting for what is right, Finkenauer said. “I am ready for the fight, and I hope you are too. I look forward to traveling the district, talking with Iowans, and earning their vote. And once elected, I look forward to being the representative that once again fights for all of us.”
Statement released by Finkenauer on May 4:
FINKENAUER: “Taking healthcare away from 24 million Americans is why Rod Blum should no longer represent the 1st District in Congress.”
Dubuque, IA – Following today’s vote by Rep. Rod Blum on the latest Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Abby Finkenauer released the following statement:
“Rod Blum has shown Iowans exactly where his priorities are – with drug companies and insurance executives. This unconscionable plan hurts regular Iowans. It puts an Age Tax on our seniors and will pull the rug out from under thousands of Iowa families – many with pre-existing conditions – who are one healthcare emergency away from financial ruin. Taking health care away from 24 million Americans is why Rod Blum should no longer represent the 1st District in Congress.”
The Republican Health Care Bill would result in:
· 24,000,000 Americans losing health care coverage
· States being allowed to end essential health benefits
· Insurance companies will be allowed to charge more for pre-existing conditions
· A woman who completed her pregnancy with minor or no complications could see a whopping $17,320 premium surcharge.
· Experts have concluded a 40-year-old with Asthma could be saddled with a $4,340 premium surcharge.
· Diabetes without complications could cost a 40-year-old individual $5,600.