Abby Finkenauer unseats Republican Rod Blum in Iowa’s 1st District

Democrat Abby Finkenauer defeated Republican incumbent Rod Blum by a 5-point margin and secured a seat in Congress representing Iowa’s 1st district.


Nick Rohlman

Democratic candidate for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District Abby Finkenauer is greeted by supporters during a watch party at 7 Hills Brewing Company in Dubuque on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Finkenauer defeated incumbent Republican Rod Blum and, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY-14, has become one of the first women under 30 elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Julia DiGiacomo, Politics Reporter

DUBUQUE — Voters elected Dubuque native and Democratic state Sen. Abby Finkenauer to Congress over two-term Republican incumbent Rod Blum, tipping Iowa’s 1st Congressional District blue Tuesday night in a key victory for Democrats to regain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Her election put a stopper in Blum’s run for a third term in Congress. Blum, 63, has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since January 2015.

At age 29, she will be one of the youngest women to ever be elected to the chamber. The youngest was also elected Tuesday night — Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a New York Democrat, who is younger by 10 months.

RELATED: Rod Blum and Abby Finkenauer battle to represent Iowa’s 1st District

In a narrow win, Finkenauer collected 50.90 percent of the votes according to unofficial vote totals at the time of publication. She defeated Blum by about a 5 point margin.

“Tonight we as Iowans made very clear exactly who we are,” she said in her victory speech. “Tonight we rejected fear and division. Tonight we prove we stand up for our friends our family and our neighbors.”

Blum’s defeat represents a shift toward an increase in the number of Iowa Democrats in Congress. Other Democratic candidate Cindy Axne also secured a seat in the 3rd District.

A majority of voters in Iowa’s 1st District are no-party registered voters, which has resulted in a difficult-to-predict election.

The district encompasses Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, and Waterloo, and has flipped between red and blue candidates in past elections. In 2016, the area supported President Donald Trump, while backing former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

The majority of Finkenauer’s support was concentrated in Linn county, where she received 57 percent of the vote. Originally from Dubuque, Finkenauer has framed herself as an ally of working-class Iowans, highlighting her roots as the daughter of a pipe fitter.

At age 25, Finkenauer was elected to the Iowa House in 2014, representing the Dubuque area. In 2016, she ran unopposed. While in the House, she sat on the Iowa Economic Growth, Labor, Transportation and Ways & Means Committees.

RELATED: In the heart of no-party country Blum and Finkenauer eye independent voters

Health care is a top issue for Finkenauer. She supports a universal health-care system and has expressed her hope to expand quality health-care access for Americans.

Teena Francois, who currently works for the Department of Correctional Services and formerly at the Department of Homeland Security for ten years, said she hopes Finkenauer will stay in touch with working-class Iowans and issues important to Dubuque.

“The commitment she has to public employees and the unions is huge,” Francois said. “I’ve seen the busting of the unions and how that’s affected us. Hopefully, she’ll renew life to [unions].”

Finkenauer has enjoyed national support from a range of groups and politicians, including Obama, Emily’s List, Iowa Teamsters, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Former Vice President Joe Biden also campaigned in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 30 on behalf of Finkenauer and Iowa gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell.

Her national attention as a Democrat in a key district has gained the Finkenauer campaign contributions from across the country.

She out-raised Blum during the campaign, hauling in $3.7 million, while he raised $1.69 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. The large majority of her contributions originated from out of state, particularly from California and New York.

Blum did not appear to his watch party and as of 11 p.m. had not given a concession speech.

Finkenauer addressed a large crowd of supporters during her speech at her victory party in Dubuque. She thanked her campaign team, family, and supporters.

“Of course, this [was] and always will be personal,” she said. “… It’s not about what we’ve been fighting against. It’s about what we’ve been fighting for.”