Iowa Senate primary has new front-runner, more level playing field

Former U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer made it official on July 22: she’s running for the U.S. Senate. And even though signs point to long-serving Senator Chuck Grassley seeking another term in 2022, at least two other people are poised to compete against Finkenauer and Dave Muhlbauer for the Democratic nomination.

Finkenauer will carry several advantages into the primary campaign. But compared to Iowa’s last Democratic race for U.S. Senate, the contenders will be playing on a much more level field.

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Don't bet on Chuck Grassley retiring

Five U.S. Senate Republicans have confirmed they won’t seek re-election in 2022. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama reported no individual or political action committee contributions during the first six months of 2021. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania reported $365 in total contributions during the same period. Rob Portman of Ohio–$23,635.83. Richard Burr of North Carolina–$140,764. Roy Blunt of Missouri–$194,149.74.

In contrast, Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley–who has served in elective office continuously since 1959–raised $682,379.79 in contributions from January through June, Federal Election Commission filings show. His campaign brought in $354,679.79 from individuals and $327,700 from a long list of PACs. He also transferred $193,811.28 from other committees to his main campaign account, which reported $2,549,206.27 cash on hand as of June 30.

Grassley refunded more campaign contributions ($11,400 in the first quarter, $20,775 in the second) than rival Republican candidate Jim Carlin (a state senator from Sioux City) raised from individuals other than himself. Carlin’s latest FEC disclosure shows his Senate campaign spent more than it brought in from April through June and closed out the second quarter with $8,639.20 cash on hand.

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Axne, Feenstra vote to repeal Iraq war authorization

Democratic Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Republican Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) voted on June 17 to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force against Iraq. House members approved the legislation by 268 votes to 161, with 49 Republicans joining all but one Democrat to support the repeal.

Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) were among the 160 Republicans to vote no.

None of Iowa’s representatives released a statement about this vote or mentioned it on their social media feeds. Bleeding Heartland sought comment from staff for all four members on the morning of June 18, but none replied. I will update this post as needed if anyone explains their reasons for voting yes or no on this effort to “rein in presidential war-making powers for the first time in a generation.” Jennifer Steinhauer reported for the New York Times,

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IA-01: How Liz Mathis might match up against Ashley Hinson

Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis told Iowa news outlets on June 14 that she is “seriously considering” running for Congress next year and will announce her plans in late July.

Mathis won her first race in a 2011 special election for Iowa Senate district 34, covering much of the Cedar Rapids suburbs. She has since been re-elected three times. Republicans did not invest in Senate district 34 in 2012, made an unsuccessful play there in 2016, and opted not to field a candidate against Mathis in 2020.

My Democratic contacts in Linn County expect Mathis to run in the first Congressional district. I am inclined to agree. If she weren’t leaning toward running, she would probably not disclose her plans until after Iowa adopts new maps, which is unlikely to happen before September.

Mathis retired last month from Four Oaks, which provides services to children in the Cedar Rapids area. So she could devote full-time efforts to a Congressional campaign whenever the state legislature is not in session. Since her Iowa Senate term runs through 2024, she doesn’t need to give up her current office to compete for IA-01.

My Republican contacts expect U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson to run for U.S. Senate if Chuck Grassley retires. For the purposes of this post, I’m assuming Grassley will seek an eighth term, and Hinson will seek re-election in IA-01.

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Iowa delegation tries again to address military suicides (updated)

UPDATE: The U.S. Senate passed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021 by unanimous consent on June 24, and President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 30. Original post follows.

From the earliest Memorial Day observances organized by freed slaves following the Civil War, this holiday has focused on remembering military service members who died in wars. More than 26,700 Iowans have died in wartime service, with the Civil War accounting for nearly half of the fatalities.

Far too many Americans with military backgrounds die by their own hands. Hundreds of active-duty troops and more than 6,000 veterans take their own lives every year. That death toll exceeds the total U.S. military fatalities in Iraq from 2003 to 2020.

Iowa’s members of Congress have tried again this spring to improve mental health services for veterans. Unlike in previous years, legislation named after Sergeant Brandon Ketchum made it through the U.S. House and now awaits action in the Senate.

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IA-Sen: Rob Sand is out. Is Abby Finkenauer in?

State Auditor Rob Sand told Douglas Burns of the Carroll Times Herald on May 27 that he won’t run for a federal office in 2022.

“I don’t want to be in D.C.; I don’t want to go to D.C.,” Sand told the Times Herald. “Maybe I would be more interested if my kids were out of the house, but they are 4 and 7. But even if my kids were out of the house, that would be a lot less time to hunt and fish. […]”

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