Former Rep. Abby Finkenauer on Thursday launched a bid for the U.S. Senate, aiming to flip the Iowa seat held by longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley as Democrats seek to maintain control of both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
When Finkenauer, a former state lawmaker, was elected to the U.S. House in 2018, she was one of the first women elected by the state in a historic year that sent a record-breaking number of women to the U.S. Congress. In 2020, Finkenauer lost her seat to Republican Ashley Hinson in one of the most closely watched House races in the country.
Finkenauer is expected to kick off her Senate campaign on Thursday in her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa, before traveling across the state in the coming days. Ahead of her announcement, she told The 19th that “it’s time we actually have folks, again, willing to sit at the table, really to get things done and willing to move things forward for our entire state.”
Democrats likely face an uphill battle to flip Grassley’s seat. The 87-year-old lawmaker has represented Iowa in the Senate since 1980 and has yet to announce whether he will seek an eighth six-year term. In 2016, he was reelected with 60 percent of the vote. In 2020, the state’s other Republican senator, Joni Ernst, fended off a challenge from Democrat Theresa Greenfield in what became one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history. Ernst retained what Democrats had eyed as a potential pickup seat by 6 points.
“When you know when there’s work to be done, you say yes, and you do it regardless of the task in front of you,” Finkenauer said of Iowa’s political climate.
At least one other Democrat, a former county supervisor, has already declared his candidacy in the Senate primary.
Finkenauer said she plans to make the case that she is better-positioned than Grassley and other potential GOP opponents to participate in bipartisan negotiations in Washington that will lead to lasting change for Iowans, citing infrastructure and economic recovery as top priorities.
Iowa, like most states, was hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in August 2020, a derecho blew through the Cedar Rapids area that caused $7.5 billion in estimated damages, making it the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history.
Finkenauer said it has been “disappointing” to watch the recent bipartisan infrastructure talks unfold without a lawmaker from Iowa at the negotiating table. “Twenty years ago, I would have expected Sen. Grassley to be there,” she said.
“I remember growing up watching Sen. Grassley and Sen. [Tom] Harkin — one Republican, one Democrat — work together to move things forward for our state and thinking to myself: That’s what public service should be, and they didn’t always agree, but they still were able to get things done,” Finkenauer said.
“What we’ve seen over the last four years from Sen. Grassley does not match who he was 20 years ago,” she added.