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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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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As Grassley weighs 2022 plans, either path entails political risks

A new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom contained shocking numbers: 55 percent of respondents, including 35 percent of Republicans surveyed, hope U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley does not run again in 2022. Just 28 percent of respondents (50 percent of Republicans) hope he will run for an eighth Senate term.

The same poll measured Grassley’s job approval at 48 percent, the lowest in this survey since 1982. Selzer polls routinely found Grassley’s approval to be above 70 percent during the 2000s and above 60 percent during the first half of the 2010s, a graph published in the Des Moines Register shows.

Although Grassley would be a prohibitive favorite to win again, the new numbers indicate widespread unease about the senator’s capacity to serve another six-year term.

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