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Democrats in Iowa are vying to challenge GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley

DESMOINES, Iowa – Several Democrats compete Tuesday for a chance to challenge the Republican Chuck Grassley in what will likely be an uphill struggle to defeat one of the Senate’s longest-serving members.

The Democratic primary is largely focused on Abby Finkenauer, a former Northeast Iowa congresswoman, and Mike Franken, a retired Navy Vice Admiral. Physician Glenn Hurst, a city councilman and active member of the Iowa Democratic Party Central Committee, is also running, but he has raised and spent far less money and is not well known across the state.

Finkenauer, who only served one term in the US House of Representatives, is one of Iowa’s most prominent Democrats. She earned a reputation as a prodigy in the legislature and became the second youngest woman elected to Congress, helping Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives that year.

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But she almost did not make the area code after Republican activists claimed she hadn’t collected enough signatures from enough counties. A district judge ruled that Finkenauer did not qualify to vote, a decision she called “deeply partisan.” The Iowa Supreme Court reversed that decision and allowed her to run.

Nevertheless, the result switched off a number of veteran Democratic activists, former candidates and office holders, prompting some to take a second look at Franken. He released stronger fundraising numbers than Finkenauer in the first quarter and garnered support from some well-known former Finkenauer supporters, who resented her refusal to take responsibility for filing errors.

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Franken, 64, of Sioux City, presents himself as progressive on some issues, such as supporting the inclusion of a public health insurance option in the Affordable Care Act. And while he supports background checks for firearm buyers and warning measures to protect them from the wrong hands, he has stopped supporting banning the sale of certain guns.

Regardless of who comes out on top on primary Tuesday, the Democrat will face strong headwinds in the general election against Grassley, who has served seven terms. A state that Democrat Barack Obama won in two presidential elections continuously shifted to the right in recent years, part of a broader transformation that has spread across the Northern Plains and made it increasingly difficult for Democrats to compete statewide.

Finkenauer, 33, has argued that she would bring a new perspective to Washington, a reference to 88-year-old Grassley’s age.

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“He’s someone who’s been in DC for almost 50 years,” Finkenauer said during a debate on Grassley last month. “I will never forget where I come from.”

Franken, meanwhile, has presented himself as someone who could break the partisan tensions that have gripped Washington in recent years.

“I also run to reduce political tensions to achieve these things,” Franken told about 600 people at a Democratic Party state banquet in Des Moines last month.

Grassley faces a nominal Republican chief challenge in Jim Carlin, a Sioux City legislator and attorney. Grassley has raised more campaign funds than Finkenauer and Franken combined in a state where Republicans control the governorship, the legislature, both seats in the US Senate and three of the four seats in the US House of Representatives.

Grassley of New Hartford, north Iowa, was first elected to the US Senate in 1980 after serving three terms in the US House of Representatives.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/07/democrats-in-iowa-vie-to-challenge-gop-sen-chuck-grassley/ Democrats in Iowa are vying to challenge GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley

Sarah Y. Kim

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