Iowa Tough: Abby Finkenauer

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8 mins read
Abby Finkenauer at a campaign event

Northeast Iowa’s 1st Congressional District is considered a battleground district by Ballotpedia, with about one-third of active voters either not registered to a party or registered to a third party. Donald Trump carried Iowa in 2016 with 51% of the vote after Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and 2012. Against this backdrop, in 2018 Abby Finkenauer became the youngest woman ever to flip a Congressional seat, earning 51% of the vote in her race against an incumbent Republican. She was also one of the first two women in history elected to Congress from Iowa, as well as the second-youngest woman elected to Congress from any state. She is now running for reelection against Republican Ashley Hinson, who is a first-term state representative.

Finkenauer strives to honor Iowa values by protecting working families, farmers, veterans and seniors. As a child growing up in a union household, she saw firsthand the benefits that come from union worker protections. At the candidates’ debate in September, Finkenauer rebuked Hinson for joining with other Republicans in 2017, when the newly Republican-controlled state legislature voted to scale back collective bargaining for public employees. Vehemently opposed by Democrats and the state’s unions, the law gutted protections that had been in place for decades. Finkenauer is supported by many of Iowa’s unions, including the Teamsters and AFSCME Council 61.

She believes that all working families, regardless of union affiliation, deserve a living wage. In her view, supporting workers preserves the state’s tradition of strong family and community ties by enabling young Iowans to remain in Iowa, close to family and friends, rather than being forced to move to another state for economic reasons. Related to this concern is a dedication to promoting equal pay for women, who currently earn 78% of what men of similar training and experience will make, an inequity that also impacts families and children. When she was a state legislator, Finkenauer fought to require state contractors to certify that they were indeed giving equal pay to women. In addition, she is fighting to expand family leave benefits, noting that only a small percentage of Americans have access to paid leave.

Finkenauer also stands with our veterans. Her grandfather received a Purple Heart in World War II and lived with shrapnel in his leg for the rest of his life. His service brought home to Finkenauer the duty and necessity of supporting our service members when they leave the military. Her bill, Peer Support for Veterans Families Act, recently passed the House and was sent to the Senate. According to a press release from Finkenauer’s office, the bill will “create a pilot program providing education and peer support for the families and caregivers of veterans who have received a mental health diagnosis.”

A lifelong Iowa resident, Finkenauer is keenly aware of the preeminent role agriculture plays in the economic health of the state. She recently introduced a bipartisan bill to provide funds to high schools that want to start agricultural education programs. “Farming is an important tradition as well as an essential economic engine in our state,” she said. “That’s why it’s incredibly important to recruit and educate the next generation of Iowa farmers.” She has also proposed legislation to support the renewable fuels industry, an important component of Iowa’s economy.

Finkenauer takes the health of Iowans seriously. Like the majority of Iowans, she strongly supports the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with preexisting conditions, while also seeking to bring down healthcare costs. She supported all of the initial pieces of COVID-19 response legislation in March, as well as the HEROES Act in May, which has never been taken up by the Senate. She has worked to ensure oversight of the Medicaid program in Iowa, favors expansion of internet access in Iowa to support telehealth for rural residents among other concerns, and opposes raising the retirement age for Social Security. She also holds a stronger stance than some in the House when it comes to federal funding to help states and localities. “When it comes to how much actually needs to be spent, again we have to have the priorities first and I think they should be narrower than what we’ve seen even come out of the House,” Finkenauer said. “That’s one place that I’ve actually differed with my leadership on.”

COVID-19 hit Iowa farmers and its meatpacking industry particularly hard. Thousands of Iowa meatpacking plant workers became ill with COVID-19, leaving farmers with few options for sending pigs and other livestock for processing. Much of their stock had to be destroyed, while plants were closed to put increased protections in place. Reduced demand for biofuels and food due to coronavirus-related lockdowns, on top of political fights over renewable fuels, caused Iowa farmers to suffer economically. To make matters worse — following the onset of the pandemic and on the heels of both too much rain and a drought — a derecho hit Iowa in August with hurricane-force winds, causing damage to hundreds of thousands of acres of corn and soybean. The situation was described as “a harvest unlike any before.”

Cedar Rapids newspaper The Gazette recently endorsed Finkenauer, calling her “as hardworking a politician as they come.” The Gazette lauded her for quickly and forcefully speaking out for disaster relief after the derecho, in contrast to others who were “absent or dithering.” The newspaper said of Finkenauer:

She flipped hamburgers to help feed her neighbors and pushed behind the scenes to speed up disaster aid. She’s advanced bills helping small businesses apply for educational grants and funding, created grants to help law enforcement with crime prevention efforts and funding for Iowa rail safety, among so many other bills.

It’s clear that Finkenauer has the interests of Iowan voters at heart. For a revealing look at how “Tough” Finkenauer is, take a look at this campaign ad from her in 2018.

Photo courtesy Finkenauer campaign Facebook page.


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