The Daily Iowan

Blum, Finkenauer face off at first debate in Cedar Falls

With one month until the 2018 midterm elections, incumbent Rod Blum faced opponent Abby Finkenauer at the University of Northern Iowa in the first of two debates.

Abby+Finkenauer+participates+in+a+debate+with+Congressman+Rod+Blum%2C+R-Iowa+at+the+University+of+Northern+Iowa+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+5.
Abby Finkenauer participates in a debate with Congressman Rod Blum, R-Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa on Friday, Oct. 5.

Abby Finkenauer participates in a debate with Congressman Rod Blum, R-Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa on Friday, Oct. 5.

Katie Goodale

Katie Goodale

Abby Finkenauer participates in a debate with Congressman Rod Blum, R-Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa on Friday, Oct. 5.

Emily Wangen, Politics Reporter

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CEDAR FALLS — In the race for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, Republican incumbent Rod Blum and Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer faced off at the University of Northern Iowa in the first of two debates before November’s election.

Both candidates kicked off the debate with opening statements in which they discussed their upbringings and perspectives as candidates for Congress. From there, the candidates discussed a variety of topics based on questions from the moderator and the audience.

Much of the hourlong event covered economic issues sparked by the questions, many of which focused on taxes and trade.

Blum praised the newest trade agreement among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, contending that the U.S. had been taken advantage of in trade deals with foreign countries.

“If these were great deals, our president wouldn’t have renegotiated it,” Blum said. “There’s no political points to be scored doing this.”

The deal may boost Iowa dairy producers, agriculture economists say, but likely won’t offset the potential $2 billion hit on Iowa farmers from tariffs.

Finkenauer, who noted she has family in the agriculture industry, criticized the trade disputes between the U.S. and China.

“It’s disappointing, it’s not how this should work, and quite frankly, my sister and brother-in-law are corn and soybean farmers, and I see that they’re working their tails off right now, worried about their future every single day,” Finkenauer said.

The candidates also covered the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in December 2017.

Finkenauer criticized the tax change for adding to the deficit and said she believes the bill is focused on wealthy Americans and corporations.

“Working families were an afterthought,” Finkenauer said. “That’s not how this is supposed to be done.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the tax change would make deficits $2.7 trillion larger than previously projected between 2018 and 2027.

Blum, who supported the tax act, pointed to the money he said families in the district would save with the tax cuts and increased take-home pay.

The candidates also focused on making communities safer and creating a comprehensive immigration-reform package.

The candidates agreed that addressing border security is important, but thay proposed different ways to secure them.

“It’s something again I don’t think Democrats or Republicans have gotten right, and it’s another issue they play politics with,” Finkenauer said.

She said she supports border security as well as creating a path to citizenship for immigrants, including those who came to the U.S. illegally.

Blum’s approach would address border security first before creating immigration reform. To secure the border, Blum said, a patrolled barrier of sorts would be necessary.

“I believe in the rule of law, and I don’t believe for a second that if you don’t like the law, you ignore it,” he said. “I am 1,000 percent for legal immigration, but you have to do it the right way.”

With last year’s failed Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare,” Blum and Finkenauer discussed their opinions on health care in the U.S.

“The miracle of the free marketplace will drive costs down,” Blum said during the debate.

Finkenauer, however, believes in adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act and allowing people to buy in to Medicaid.

“We have to get serious about health care, and we have to get something done,” Finkenauer said.

Iowa’s 1st District comprises approximately 497,000 active voters with a majority of them registered as no party. There are approximately 20,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans. In recent months, the number of active registered voters in the district has been slowly growing, according to data from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

Finkenauer is a native of Dubuque and has represented state House District 99 since 2014. During her tenure in the Legislature, she sat on the House committees on transportation, commerce, and government oversight, where she was a ranking member. She currently sits on the House Economic Growth Committee.

Blum, also a Dubuque resident, was first elected to Congress in the 2014 midterm election; in the House, he serves on the Budget and Oversight and Government Reform Committees.

The second debate will be held Oct. 16 in the CBS Studio 2 in Cedar Rapids.

 

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