Former Iowa congresswoman announces bid for Grassley's Senate seat

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Former Democratic Iowa Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer announced on Thursday that she's running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Chuck Grassley.

Finkenauer, 32, is the first major Democratic candidate to enter the race. She was elected to Congress in 2018, but lost her bid for a second term to freshman Representative Ashley Hinson.

"I'm running for U.S. Senate because Iowa, and our Democracy, are worth fighting for," Finkenauer tweeted on Thursday. "After 46 years in D.C., Chuck Grassley has lost touch with both."

In a video announcing her candidacy, Finkenauer focused on her family's blue-collar background and the January 6 attack at the Capitol and said Grassley has not done enough to condemn the attack. 

"Politicians like Senator Grassley and (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell should know better, but are so obsessed with power that they oppose anything that moves us forward," Finkenauer said in her video. "Since the Capitol was attacked, they turned their backs on democracy and on us."

In a tweet on January 6, Grassley said the riot was "an attack on American democracy itself." He was among the Senate Republicans who blocked a House-passed bill in May to create a commission to investigate the January 6 attack.  

Grassley, 87, was first elected to the Senate in 1980 and has continually held a public office since he was elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1958. He raised more than $400,000 in the second quarter, but is still deciding whether he will seek an eighth term in the Senate. 

A recent Des Moines Register poll showed 64% of Iowans think it's time for someone else to hold office and his approval rating was down eight points since June 2020, but Grassley brushed off concerns about that. 

"I'm not too worried about what any poll says about my reelection or whether I should even be a candidate," Grassley told reporters last month, according to the Des Moines Register. He also said that he expects to make a decision in September, October or November. 

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott told the "Ruthless" podcast on Tuesday that he recently did a fundraiser with Grassley in Naples, Florida and expects the incumbent to run again. 

If she wins the nomination, Finkenauer will be hoping to reverse Democrats' statewide struggles in Iowa in recent elections. Democrats have not been victorious in a U.S. Senate race in Iowa since 2008, when former Senator Tom Harkin ran for the final time. Former President Trump easily carried Iowa in 2016 and 2020. 

"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," Jennifer Heins, an adviser to Grassley's campaign committee, said in a statement. "Finkenauer is out of touch and out of office."

Some top Iowa Democrats have passed on a Senate campaign, including former congressional candidate J.D. Scholten, but Finkenauer could nonetheless face a competitive primary. Retired Admiral Michael Franken, who finished third in the 2020 Democratic Senate primary, is considering a bid. Farmer and former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer has already declared his candidacy. 

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