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Saturday, June 5, 2021

Iowa's 1st Congressional District Elections 2018 and 2020. A.K.A. the Rise and Fall of Abby Finkenauer

I think that Representative Abby Finkenauer is one of the most interesting freshman of the 2018 House.  Second youngest woman ever elected to Congress by just under ten months, she never attracted as much media attention, positive or negative, as her classmate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  However, her 2018 win was arguably more impressive.

Finkenauer's Iowa House district was based in the southern half of Dubuque, Iowa, which gave her a strong base of support in the 2018 Democratic primary.  However, 15 out of the 20 counties, including Finkenauer's home base of Dubuque County, in Iowa's 1st Congressional District as drawn in the 2010s are "pivot counties", counties that voted for Obama twice then flipped to Trump in 2016.  Democratic enthusiasm was incredibly high in 2018 but Republican enthusiasm nearly met it, making Finkenauer's 16,900 vote win (5.1%) in the swingy 1st District an awesome feat.

These great maps by Twitter user @bob37689044 show how she ended up losing the next cycle:

In her 2018 election against 2-term incumbent Republican Representative Rod Blum, Finkenauer visibly succeeded in keeping the more rural areas of her district competitive, even winning Winneshiek County. Meanwhile, she ran up the votes in the urban and suburban counties of Dubuque, Black Hawk, and Linn.

During a presidential election year, Finkenauer couldn't benefit from the "throw the bums out" effect of a midterm.  She lost ground in Dubuque, while her performance across the rural counties plummeted, including a flip in Winneshiek.  Also, the Republican Party did a good job recruiting a strong challenger in now-Rep. Ashley Hinson, a former news anchor, like Finkenauer an Iowa House member, and a woman of the same generation.

Simply put, Republican turnout went up across the board, and so down went Finkenauer.  However, I'll leave you with this tantalizing bit of gossip:

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