Former Iowa congresswoman Abby Finkenauer on Thursday became the first major Democrat to announce a 2022 run for the U.S. Senate seat long held by Republican Chuck Grassley.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Finkenauer echoed many of the themes that motivated her two campaigns for Congress, including a focus on working Iowans and support for the middle class.
But she also brought a harder edge to her criticism of Republican leaders after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 in an effort to disrupt the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden.
“On 1/6 the world changed, and so did I,” Finkenauer said. “I remember sitting on my couch in Cedar Rapids with my husband as we were watching my former colleagues and my friends get attacked in the United States Capitol. … That violent mob, that insurrection, was happening because our country and people were fed misinformation and lies about our elections and democracy, and our senators didn’t push back.”
Grassley condemned the riot as “an attack on democracy itself,” but Finkenauer said he should have gone further in condemning Trump’s election lies that fueled participants.
Now, Finkenauer is casting this election as bigger than a fight between competing policy agendas.
“We’re talking about our democratic principles here, and those are worth fighting for every single day,” she said. “I intend to do it.”
Jennifer Heins, an advisor to The Grassley Committee, issued a statement following Finkenauer’s announcement calling her “out of touch and out of office.”
“Ex-Rep. Finkenauer is too radical for Iowa, which is why Iowans fired her just last year, giving her the distinction as the first member of Congress from Iowa to lose re-election after just one term in more than fifty years,” she said. “If you know Nancy Pelosi, you know Abby Finkenauer, because she voted with Pelosi 93% of the time. Finkenauer wants Washington to control Iowans’ lives with more taxes, regulation and big government.”
All eyes are on Chuck Grassley: Will he run?
Finkenauer’s entry into the race comes as Grassley, 87, mulls a decision whether to seek reelection to an eighth term.
His decision will carry dramatic implications for Iowa and the fate of the U.S. Senate, which is currently deadlocked in a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.
Grassley, who has held elected office continuously since 1959, is about as close to a sure bet as Republicans could hope to field in a candidate as they seek to claw back a majority in the Senate. He won his 2016 race by 24 percentage points despite an onslaught of criticism for his role in blocking Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination that year. It was his narrowest general election victory of the 21st century.
But if Grassley retires, it could open up Republicans to a messy and chaotic primary election, drawing numerous candidates from across Iowa’s political spectrum — and potentially creating an opening for Democrats.
“I’m very hopeful about Iowa,” Finkenauer said, adding that she was seen as an underdog candidate as well when she won election in 2018.
“I’m going to get out there and I’m going to make sure that every single Iowan across the state knows that they have a champion in me, and that I’m going to do that work for them,” she said.
Finkenauer was scheduled to hold a formal launch event at 10 a.m. Thursday in Dubuque and tour the state over the coming…