WATERLOO — Iowa’s 1st Congressional District race is one of the most-watched races in the United States during a particularly high-interest midterm election.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum is seeking his third term, challenged by state Rep. Abby Finkenauer. Both are Dubuque natives and both were first elected in 2014.
Finkenauer served in Iowa’s 99th House District and Blum in Iowa’s 1st Congressional district.
There is a world of difference in their ideologies, and they also disagree on the biggest issues facing Iowa.
For Finkenauer, health care is the most important issue facing Iowans.
“Making sure that folks are able to have access to affordable care, making sure that we have someone in Washington, D.C., standing up to the administration,” she said.
Fixing health care is important for Iowans, Finkenauer said. She wants to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act.
Blum also wants to address health care and keep pre-existing conditions covered by insurance companies, he said.
“Our bill that we passed in the House — and it didn’t make to the Senate so it never became law — had multiple ways to protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Blum said. “The only thing we ask of people is to be a little bit responsible and make sure you maintain continuous coverage.”
Blum has focused on the economy during his campaign, saying it’s one of the best in history.
“We have more job openings than people looking for jobs,” Blum said. “Incomes were the largest increase in 10 years for working families.”
Finkenauer hasn’t seen the same economy that Blum sees.
“It’s doing well for folks like Rod Blum, but folks that I’m talking to are working multiple jobs trying just to have enough money to send their kids to baseball and softball practice,” Finkenauer said. “Our wages are too dang low here.”
Finkenauer said the trade war “started on Twitter” has cost the state $2.2 billion in agricultural sales, and the tax cut bill Blum voted for gave 83 percent of the benefits to top 1 percent and corporations.
“That has not trickled down to folks here,” Finkenauer said.
Blum said there’s some misconception about policies he’s supported.
“The misconception is that since we had tax cuts in this country we’re now going to have to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Blum said. “In fact revenues are going to probably double over the next 10 years.”
The two also disagree on abortion, with Blum being 100 percent against it.
Blum co-sponsored the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks. It has not passed the U.S. Senate.
Historically he’s voted for bills and laws that restrict abortions, unlike his opponent, who in the Iowa House voted to fund Planned Parenthood and against a bill similar to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection bill.
“When it comes to women’s health, we’ve got to respect women and we’ve got respect doctors and make sure legislators are not in the doctor’s offices,” Finkenauer said. “Women have the right to make these types of decisions with their doctors.”
Blum continues to support term limits. He’s supported a bill that would limit politicians to three terms in the House of Representatives and two terms in the Senate.
“The Democrats always say that, ‘limit yourself to three terms because you support that law,’” Blum said.
Blum won’t commit to just three terms. He’s said he’ll worry about running for a fourth term after he’s elected to a third.
Blum has repeatedly criticized Finkenauer for getting out-of-state funding. But both candidates have received a large amount of out-of-state funding.
Almost $1 million has come to Finkenauer from ActBlue, a website that processes Democratic donations.
Finkenauer has raised money at a faster rate than Blum. During the three-month fundraising period that ended Sept. 30, Finkenauer raised $1.6 million to Blum’s $469,519.
She’s outraised Blum overall, as well, bringing in $3.7 million to his $1.69 million. Finkenauer has almost equaled both of Blum’s past Democratic opponents combined and the race isn’t over yet. Monica Vernon raised $2.7 million in 2016 and Pat Murphy raised $1.4 million in 2014. Both outraised Blum, but ultimately lost to him.
So far, Blum has raised less than he did in 2016, when he had $1.88 million in total contributions.
“Raising money is always challenging,” Blum said. “It’s a little bit harder for me to raise money than it is for career politicians because I stand up to Washington, D.C., and I stand up against my own party.”
With a month to go Blum has more cash on hand, though, with $1 million still in his coffer to Finkenauer’s $561,268.
For Finkenauer the most challenging part of the campaign has been being away from her family.
“I’ve been a state rep for the past four years and the hardest part whether running or in office is making sure that you always make time for your family,” she said. “There’s never enough time with my nieces and nephews.”
Both candidates have faced ethics accusations —- Blum about his Tin Moon business and Finkenauer about not reporting a nonprofit she worked for.
“I can sum it up as making a mountain out of an ant hill,” Blum said. “It’s all politics. It’s part of the swamp.”
The House Ethics Committee has taken up an inquiry into whether he failed to disclose his involvement in Tin Moon, a Dubuque firm that claims it can bury derogatory information about businesses in online search results. The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case in mid-July. A decision on a course of action is expected before Dec. 17.
Blum said he forgot to check a box on a financial disclosure statement two years ago.
Finkenauer’s been questioned about failing to note her change of employment when she became the director of Make It Work, a nonprofit organization. Finkenauer was also accused of using a photo from the Legislature in a television ad and including a link to her campaign website on her official biographical page for the Legislature. Both of her ethics complaints were dismissed by an Iowa legislative panel.
Throughout the race Finkenauer has held a lead according to most polls, but Blum consistently faced unfavorable polling in his previous races in 2016 and 2014.
“I don’t pay attention much to the polls,” Finkenauer said. “What I’m hearing from folks is they desperately want some change.”
Throughout the race Finkenauer and Blum have been endorsed by other politicians. On Saturday, for instance, Finkenauer appeared with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnsota, in Waterloo. Blum has been supported by none other than President Donald Trump during a recent Iowa visit, adding attention to the already high-profile race.
The candidates have had the chance to square off against each other in debates in Cedar Falls Oct.5 and in Cedar Rapids Oct. 16.
Voters will have a chance to decide between the two on Nov. 6.