WATERLOO — Dubuque Democrat Abby Finkenauer didn’t expect to run for Congress in 2018. But the 2016 election didn’t work out the way the second-term state representative anticipated.
“When I woke up that next day and realized the direction that not just our state but where our federal government was headed as well, I knew we had a lot of work to do,” Finkenauer said during a stop in Waterloo on Wednesday. “I grew up in a family that when there was work to be done, you say yes and you do it.”
Finkenauer, 28, is the first Democrat to challenge 1st District U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, a Republican.
Iowa’s 1st District has more Democratic voters than Republicans, but the seat has twice been won by Blum, a Dubuque businessman.
Finkenauer said she and Democrats have work to do to win the seat back.
That’s one reason she decided to announce when she did.
“It’s time to act. It’s not time to sit back and watch. It’s time to be talking to people in this state, and again, not bringing the D.C. message but bringing an Iowa message.
And you only do that by talking to your constituents, so I need the time to talk to people to earn their trust and earn their vote and take this district back for the people,” Finkenauer said.
Recognizing the losses for Democrats in the state in 2016, Finkenauer said Democrats need to talk to Iowans, and not just those in their own party.
“People like to differentiate the rural and city folk, right? But again, they all want the same thing, that shot to live in that Iowa where you work hard, you play by the rules, you can make it, and that’s gone, we know that right now,” Finkenauer said.
Finkenauer toured downtown Waterloo with state Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, after a short speech at the Black Hawk County Democratic Headquarters.
Smith and state Rep. Timi Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo, praised Finkenauer for her willingness to step forward.
“I am really inspired that she took that step to come forward. She is putting herself out there; we don’t see anybody else putting themselves out there right now, so I commend her fully on that,” Brown-Powers said.
Blum said he is surprised “it’s been this long” before Democrats put forward a candidate, recalling 2016 challenger Monica Vernon announced her plans to run before he’d been sworn in.
“It never ends. It never ends in the House,” Blum said about the campaign cycle for the two-year terms.
As he went from one Capitol Hill committee meeting to another Wednesday, Blum said he expects a “robust” Democratic primary.
“I would imagine there will be multiple people on the Democrat side trying to fight it out to get the nomination,” Blum said.
James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette contributed to this report.