IA-01: Liz Mathis is running, Ashley Hinson is pandering

State Senator Liz Mathis made it official on July 27: she’s seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s first Congressional district.

Mathis told reporters six weeks ago that she was “seriously considering” the race, but it wasn’t hard to guess where she would land.

Compared to most challengers, Mathis starts the race with high name ID, thanks to a long career in broadcast journalism followed by ten years in the Iowa Senate. That gave her the freedom to spend less time on her own biography in her launch video. And while she didn’t mention U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson by name, she landed some solid hits on the incumbent.

My transcript:

Hi, it’s Liz Mathis. You may have seen me in your living room at night on the tv news, or as a state senator from Linn County. It’s been the joy of my life to listen to your stories, to be your voice and help people who need it.

But lately what I hear from so many in eastern Iowa–from the checker at the grocery store to a new mom who stopped me on the street–is their concern about the level of conflict and where we’re headed as a country. Whether the people we send to Washington are putting Iowa first or just playing politics.

That’s why I want you to hear that I’ve decided to run for Congress. It’s clear Iowans want leaders who care about fairness and honesty. Who want to make sure businesses and workers succeed. Who want to see communities thrive, so that our kids and grandkids inherit an even better Iowa. And that means putting service ahead of politics.

It’s not the time to curry favor with other politicians, or climb the political ladder. Or to turn a blind eye to the riots of January 6, the vote against curbing domestic violence against women, or COVID relief for Iowa families and businesses. The list goes on.

You deserve better. Join my campaign, and together, we’ll make sure they hear us in Washington.

Hinson talked up her bipartisan work during a telephone town hall on July 27, but in four years she never went against her party leaders on any significant Iowa House vote. She genuflected to President Donald Trump throughout the 2020 campaign and has implied he didn’t really lose certain states to Joe Biden. In Congress, she has been a reliable vote for House GOP leaders.

As for the other points Mathis mentioned: Hinson voted to replace Liz Cheney as House Conference chair with Trump loyalist Elise Stefanik (with whom Hinson has done some joint fundraising). She voted against creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6, despite having co-sponsored a similar bill soon after the attack on the Capitol. She voted against a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. And she’s continually bashed the latest COVID-19 relief package as too expensive.

Bleeding Heartland discussed here why Mathis was the top Democratic recruit for this district, with analysis of county-level results from 2018 (when Democrat Abby Finkenauer defeated a Republican incumbent) and 2020 (when Hinson defeated Finkenauer). I’ll have more to say about this race when the new district lines are known. In some scenarios, IA-01 could get a lot tougher for a Democrat. Regardless, Linn County will be the largest in the Congressional district, and no one is better positioned than Mathis to run up the score in the Cedar Rapids area.

Hinson is expected to seek re-election, but she would almost certainly run for U.S. Senate if Senator Chuck Grassley decides to retire. Some Iowa politics watchers think Governor Kim Reynolds may appoint Hinson to the Senate in 2022, if Grassley steps down before the end of his term for whatever reason. Republican spin doctor David Kochel has been a top strategist for both the governor and the new member of Congress.

The Hinson campaign’s response to today’s news was a string of GOP talking points with a Trump-like bit of name calling.

Nancy Pelosi has handpicked her new protégé: Liberal Liz Mathis. Liberal Liz has never met a tax hike she doesn’t like – she voted against Iowa families and the largest tax cut in Iowa’s history. Liberal Liz supports lockdowns, mask mandates, and keeping our kids out of school. She even supports vaccine passports. While Liberal Liz raises your taxes, stomps on your rights, and would put Pelosi’s wishes ahead of Iowa’s needs, Ashley will continue fighting and delivering for Iowa. If you’re a taxpayer, a parent, or a kid in Iowa’s schools, beware of the politics of Pelosi, brought to you by Liberal Liz Mathis.

A fundraising email blast from Hinson’s camp hit the same notes. A future Bleeding Heartland post will discuss Mathis’ voting record in more detail. Anyone familiar with the Iowa legislature can tell you she is not on the left wing of the Senate Democratic caucus.

To follow the Liz Mathis campaign: website, Facebook, Twitter

To follow the Ashley Hinson campaign: website, Facebook, Twitter

P.S.- As many commentators have mentioned, Mathis and Hinson were once colleagues at KCRG-TV, the most-watched station for local news in the Cedar Rapids market. It’s worth noting that Mathis anchored the evening newscast, which has a larger audience than the morning show where Hinson was an anchor.

P. P.S.–Hinson’s fundraising pages still make recurring contributions the default option–a practice the Federal Election Commission wants Congress to ban. Here’s how one page looked on July 27:

Full text of Mathis campaign announcement:


Liz Mathis Announces Campaign for Congress


Iowa State Senator, non-profit leader, and former journalist running for Iowa’s First Congressional District to put service above politics
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Iowa State Senator Liz Mathis announced she will continue her service to Eastern Iowa by running for Iowa’s First Congressional District.

“It’s been the joy of my life to listen to people across eastern Iowa and to be their voice. I’ve spent decades listening and telling stories as a journalist and I’ve helped fix problems in our communities as a state senator and non-profit leader,” said Liz Mathis. “But lately, I’ve heard from so many Iowans who are concerned about the partisanship and conflict they’re seeing in Washington. It’s clear Iowans want leaders who care about fairness and honesty, who want to make sure businesses, farmers and workers succeed and who want to see communities thrive so that our kids and grandkids inherit an even better Iowa. I’m running because Iowans deserve better leadership and a member of Congress who listens to their concerns and delivers results.”

Liz Mathis has been a journalist, a non-profit leader and a State Senator – no matter the role, she has listened and been a voice for Iowa families. Mathis grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa, the daughter of a WWII veteran and a nurse who was trained in the cadet corp. After putting herself through college and earning a degree in journalism from the University of Iowa, she became an anchor for KWWL and KCRG, where she listened to Iowans, told their stories, and held powerful interests accountable for 27 years. 

After her career in journalism, she continued serving her community as a non-profit leader in Cedar Rapids, where she helped countless families recover from devastating floods and teamed up to support children and adults who required access to mental health care, housing and basic needs.

In 2011, she was elected to the State Senate representing parts of Linn County. As Senator, Mathis has spoken up for families struggling with the state’s Medicaid program and created numerous measures that focused on children, Iowa’s economy and educational growth. She assisted Iowa families and businesses struggling to recover from COVID-19 and during the recent derecho disaster, she helped them find a warm meal, seek resources or get back on their feet.

As a young mother, Liz juggled caring for her five-year-old son as he underwent major surgery and at the same time, taking care of her elderly parents as they were dying. She experienced the stress that so many others have faced by trying to navigate insurance and medical bills that quickly followed. That has  given her a personal perspective as she makes legislative decisions and guides people to the right resources.

Mathis and her husband Mark live in Hiawatha. They raised their kids, Mark and Mary Fran, in Waterloo and Robins. Mark has a partnership in a local business and employs 40 people in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids and Wausau, Wisconsin.

Mathis announced her candidacy in a video to supporters this morning. Her campaign has also launched a new website, LizMathis.com, and Iowans can follow the campaign on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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