Abby Finkenauer’s attempt to secure the Democratic nomination for the Iowa State Senate has not been so difficult.
She is one of the most prominent Democrats in the state, having earned an uncanny reputation in the state legislature before ousting the Republican House of Representatives in 2018. She is the second youngest woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and helped Democrats regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives that year.
And while she will lose her Democratic-leaning constituency in 2020, her status has hardly been compromised. She posted her own profile on her cable TV and raised millions ahead of her run for the Senate via an aggressive email attack on her incumbent Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.
However, Finkenauer’s campaign ran into unexpected problems last month. At least for a while, it seemed that she would not be allowed to compete in the June 7 primary. A judge found an error in Finkenauer’s nomination petition after Republican activists challenged her papers.
Although the Iowa Supreme Court ultimately guaranteed her voting rights, the confusion and Finkenauer’s response led some prominent Democrats to once again turn to her main competitor, retired Navy Admiral Mike Franken. Some Democrats denounced Finckenauer, who called her Republican-appointed state judge’s ruling “deep partisan”, was quick to denounce her political motives and for refusing to acknowledge the organizational mistakes of her own campaign. do.
“It was a really bad idea,” said Bonnie Campbell, former Iowa Attorney General and former Democratic nominee for governor.
Campbell donated money to Finkenauer’s campaign, but Franken was also watching. Finkenauer’s remarks turned the scales upside down, she said.
“The exact same thing Donald Trump is saying, this is about politics,” Campbell said. “What are my alternatives?”
Finkenauer’s campaign turned down requests for an interview on the story.
There are few credible polls in the primary, and whoever survives the Democratic primary faces a tough challenge at Grassley, which by March raised more money than Finkenauer and Franken combined.
In addition, Iowa has shifted sharply to the right over the past decade, making the Democratic Senate primaries a kind of test case for a party in rural northern Iowa that once competed with the state’s way to power.
Still, Finkenauer has more Democrat state support than Franken. She was approved last month by the Iowa Labor Federation, Iowa’s largest trade union organization. According to the most recent financial filings, she has also raised more than $3 million, up to $1.8 million for Franken.
In addition to cable news appearances, Finkenauer has a higher national profile as a regular spokesperson for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign route ahead of the 2020 election, in part.
But Franken quietly built a competitive campaign, supported by former party cadres, including Campbell and former Lieutenant Sally Pederson. Franken, who finished second in Iowa’s 2020 Senate primary, also raised more money than Finkenauer in the first quarter of 2022 and had more money in the second quarter. Franken also first launched a TV commercial that began in April. Finkenauer planned to start advertising next week.
Finkenauer and Franken are nearly identical in policy, but present markedly different profiles.
At 33, Finkenauer is over 30 years younger than Franken, at 64. Her message relies heavily on her working-class education at the blue-collar Dubuque, as she did in her two parliamentary campaigns and her state legislative campaign. She campaigns with a passionate edge, often with a broad smile, as she did at her recent state Democratic fundraising event.
Finkenauer made a commitment to 600 party activists at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.
Tall, gray and upright, Franken’s approach is understated. With a dry sense of humor, Franken spends most of his campaign time answering questions from his audience and promoting standard progressive platforms, but with a calm that is unfamiliar to most politics today.
Franken told the crowd at the Des Moines banquet:
Finkenauer has been in politics since college when she volunteered as a college student for Joe Biden’s 2008 campaign and later as a legislative page. She rose to prominence as a vocal member of the minority party by winning the Iowa House of Representatives in 2014, at the age of 24, and won the US House of Representatives four years later.
Franken has crossed ships around the world, but during the Obama administration he served on the Capitol longer than Finkenauer as legislative assistant to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and the Navy’s Legislative Liaison.
The stylistic contrast between Finkenauer and 88-year-old harsh-voiced Grassley makes her a better choice for former State Democratic Vice Chairman Andrea Phillips.
“The contrast with Abby (young, fresh ideas, new generations) gives voters a clearer choice,” said Phillips.
But Phillips would like to hear Finkenauer held accountable for the campaign’s administrative mistakes. When her reporters repeatedly asked questions, Finkenauer didn’t say she was at fault for her error in that her Iowa Supreme Court decided it wasn’t important enough to remove her from her vote.
Finkenauer’s campaign left little room for error by providing only the minimum number of signatures required by other counties. However, the judge found that of the 5,000 signatures obtained by Finkenauer’s campaign, a small number were not dated as required by state law.
“As a supporter, I wish she would have come out and apologize,” Phillips said.
At a party fundraising event, Des Moines Democrats Suzanne and Tom Fross disagreed about the impact of the episode. “She handled it well,” said Suzanne Fross, a retired civil servant. She was a Republican ambush,” she said. Her husband, the manufacturing manager, said: “It was embarrassing. “She should have taken it,” she said.
However, both had less than a month to decide who to apply for.
Diane Gibson, a veteran Dubuque Democrat volunteer, said “it didn’t take much effort” to consider Franken after the episode ended.
“Abby wasn’t responsible for what his campaign didn’t do well,” Gibson said. “It’s a sign of a rookie.”