Democrats get high-profile contender in Iowa Senate race

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Former Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa on Thursday declared her candidacy for the Senate, giving the Democrats a high-profile contender in the 2022 race for the seat currently held by seven-term Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

“I’m Abby Finkenauer, and I’m running for U.S. Senate because Iowa—and our Democracy—are worth fighting for. After 46 years in DC, @ChuckGrassley has lost touch with both,” the candidate charged in a tweet as she launched her campaign.

Finkenauer, an Iowa native, served as a state representative for four years before defeating GOP Rep. Rod Blum in 2018 to win a seat in the House. Her congressional victory came during a Democratic wave in which her party won back the majority in the House for the first time in eight years. But Finkenauer was narrowly defeated in her 2020 bid for reelection by Republican Ashley Hinson.

The former congresswoman was an early supporter of then-former Vice President Biden’s 2020 White House campaign. She now becomes the second Iowa Democrat to launch a 2022 Senate campaign, but she’s the most well-known. Former Crawford County supervisor Dave Muhlbauer jumped into the race in May.

What remains up in the air is whom the eventual Democratic Senate nominee will face off against in November of next year. 

“I’ll be making that decision sometime this fall,” he has repeatedly said so far this year as he points to an announcement sometime likely in October or November.

Grassley – who won reelection in 2016 by nearly 25 points – currently has a healthy $2.5 million in his campaign coffers. Republican insiders tell Fox News it’s likely that Grassley, who’s 87 but who recently showed off his physical prowess by taking on Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas in a push-up competition, will run again in 2022. 

Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann, following Thursday’s announcement, charged that “Iowans know Finkenauer and her disastrous record, it’s why they rejected her last November.” 

“Let me be as clear as possible – Abby Finkenauer will never represent the state of Iowa in the U.S. Senate,” he predicted.

And Grassley political committee adviser Jennifer Heins argued that Finkenauer “is too radical for Iowa” and that “Finkenauer wants Washington to control Iowans’ lives with more taxes, regulation, and big government.”

The Senate is currently split 50-50 between the two major parties, but Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the chamber due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris through her constitutional role as president of the Senate.

Looking at the electoral map, Republicans see strong pickup opportunities to flip blue Senate seats red in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire.

But the GOP’s also playing plenty of defense. They’re defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in next year’s midterm elections – including having to protect five open seats where GOP incumbents are retiring. Two of those five are in crucial battleground states – Pennsylvania and North Carolina. And GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – another swing state that now-President Biden narrowly won last November – has yet to say if he’ll run reelection next year.

But in Iowa – a state that then-President Trump carried by eight points last year and GOP Sen. Joni Ernst’s won reelection by nearly seven points, there’s less concern among Republicans of holding the Senate seat if Grassley decides to retire.

“It’s clear that he guarantees he hold that seat without much work or money,” a Republican operative who works on Senate races recently told Fox News. “If he doesn’t run, there’s a chance we’ll have to spend some money there.”

The operative, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, stressed that “Grassley is the difference between a race that is an afterthought in the broader landscape of the Senate map and one that becomes another opportunity for Democrats to try and pick up a seat.”

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