Democrats compete over nomination in U.S. Senate debate

In a debate on Saturday night, candidates Abby Finkenauer, Mike Franken, and Glenn Hurst made the case for why they should be the Democratic nominee this June.


From left to right: Democrats Glenn Hurst, Abby Finkenauer, and Mike Franken are running for the Democratic nomination in the election for U.S. Senate.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Editor

Democratic candidates Abby Finkenauer, Mike Franken, and Glenn Hurst all aimed to show they are best suited to take on Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley while answering policy questions during a debate on Saturday night. 

The debate opened up with a question about the leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade and leave abortion regulation up to the states. 

All candidates said they would codify Roe v. Wade into law if elected. 

“To all of the women watching tonight, and all the women across this country who are scared and worried about the fact that you have a United States Supreme Court, who’s going after your rights, I hear you and I am going to fight for you,” Finkenauer said. 

Grassley was instrumental in shaping the deeply conservative court that made the potential ruling possible. As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2015-2019, Grassley withheld nomination hearings on then-President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland during a presidential election year in 2016. Grassley was chair of the committee when Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh were confirmed during President Donald Trump’s administration.

“The unprofessional conduct of [Grassley] as the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee that has given us this decision with the Trump appointees is as an exemplar of what is so wrong about this decision,” Franken said. “The people that made this decision should not be in the positions they’re in.” 

Hurst said as a medical professional he doesn’t see the government having a role in abortion. 

“I can’t require a person to donate blood. I can’t require a person to donate a kidney. I can’t require a person to allow a kidney to be used post-mortem without their written permission,” Hurst said. “Women should have complete control of their bodies at all times, that is a federal issue. It should be made federal law.”

The three are competing for the Democratic nomination for Iowa’s 2022 Senate race. Ultimately, the candidates have to make a case for why they are best positioned to take on long time incumbent Grassley, who first won the Senate seat in 1980. 

Grassley faces a primary challenge from State Sen. Jim Carlin, of Sioux City, but Grassley is expected to take the Republican nomination given his fundraising success and incumbent status. 

Franken said his experience makes him the GOP’s “worst nightmare,” since he was raised in rural Iowa and would be the most senior military officer ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

Finkenauer, who served one term in the U.S. House, as one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress, said there are many differences between her and Grassley that she would highlight, “the biggest one is that I will never forget where I come from, and who I fight for,” she said, citing her experience coming from a union family. 

Hurst distinguished himself several times in the debate as the progressive candidate in this primary. He said moderate Democrats like Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, have stopped more ambitious parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda from passing. He said moderate Senate candidates have been losing in Iowa. 

“The reality is we as Democrats have lost at the top of the ticket for the U.S. Senate in the last four general elections,” Hurst said. “The last candidate that won as a Democrat was Tom Harkin, a progressive candidate, and I’m the only progressive candidate in this race.”  

One issue where there was disagreement among candidates was on the U.S. response to Ukraine. Finkenauer said she supports the U.S. doing everything short of sending troops to Ukraine, such as sending funds and weapons, as well as sanctioning Russia. Hurst said there should be humanitarian efforts sent to refugees and Iowa should open up to refugees and embrace the opportunity to fill jobs in rural communities. 

Franken, however, said if Russian President Vladimir Putin used a nuclear weapon against Ukraine, American forces should be sent in.

“We cannot let the use of weapons of mass destruction against a large population and a democracy ever be used and go without retort,” he said. “So yes, you have to have a red line in life. Otherwise, you’re not a first rate nation, otherwise you’re not an American. You’re not a leading democracy of the world and you must step up, it’s unfortunate, but it’s necessary.” 

Voters in both the Democratic and Republican parties will choose from their respective candidates in a statewide primary on June 7.