The U.S. House seat representing Dubuque County has swung back to blue.
Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, unseated incumbent U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, in Tuesday night’s midterm election. She wins a two-year term representing Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat.
“Tonight, we rejected fear and division,” Finkenauer said. “We showed that we step up for our friends, family and neighbors. ... Tonight, I want every child in this state to know they can do anything.”
Finkenauer declined to answer additional questions after delivering her victory remarks.
Iowa’s 1st Congressional District spans 20 eastern Iowa counties, including Dubuque, Jackson, Clayton and Delaware. Blum is a prominent local businessman and two-term incumbent, and Finkenauer has served two terms representing the City of Dubuque in Des Moines.
As of press time, Finkenauer had earned 99,115 votes — or 50 percent of the ballots cast — to Blum’s 90,681 votes. Libertarian Troy Hageman, of Calmar, earned 6,392 votes.
Blum could not be reached for comment. To the surprise of many supporters, Blum did not appear at an event at Trackside Bar & Grill in Peosta, Iowa, where he was set to appear with several fellow Republicans.
His staffers provided a range of explanations for his absence, including that his wife had the stomach flu and he had been surprised at home earlier in the day by a visit from his grandson.
This year marked consecutive races in which Blum’s seat was targeted by Democratic operatives eager to win back a swing district. In both 2016 and 2018, Blum’s grasp of the seat was listed as tenuous by multiple news outlets and political prognosticators.
It was also the second time Blum faced a hometown challenge, having bested longtime Iowa House Rep. Pat Murphy, of Dubuque, in 2014. Finkenauer, who succeeded Murphy in the statehouse, also hails from Dubuque.
The two traded barbs throughout a heated campaign.
Blum, 63, was bolstered by a July visit from President Donald Trump, a meetup that produced the hashtag-friendly derogatory nickname “Absent Abby.” Blum repeatedly claimed Finkenauer, 29, refused to campaign in public and failed to make public any of her policy positions.
He attacked Finkenauer’s lack of work experience, describing her as an aspiring career politician and an ally of Democratic boogeyman U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, of California.
Finkenauer’s camp, meanwhile, accused Blum of being reticent to hold public town hall meetings and being in lockstep with Trump. She particularly lamented his support of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Democrats assert will add $1.9 trillion to the deficit.
Several campaign ads and public statements centered on Blum’s ongoing ethics investigation with U.S. House officials. He is accused of failing to disclose his financial involvement with Tin Moon, a reputation management firm which Finkenauer said helps clients hide harmful regulatory reports.
Finkenauer said the campaign was “founded, fed and fueled by the people across this district who stepped up to be my family.”
“That’s always what this has been about,” Finkenauer said. “Not what we are fighting against. It’s about what we were fighting for. This campaign has been about hope in the idea that if you work hard, you’re not just able to make a living. You’re able to have a good life.”
Marcy Davidson, a single mother who drives Uber to make ends meet, said she voted absentee on the off chance that she would be unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. She was moved to vote for Finkenauer after driving the candidate on her regular route.
“She is so good at personal connection,” Davidson said at 7 Hills Brewing Co, where Finkenauer supporters gathered with the candidate. “But as she talked, I really started to get what she was trying to do and her devotion to the economic improvements here.”
Other supporters said they identified with her experiences.
“She has a good understanding of what our generation is going through, especially with student loans,” said Will McBride. “A lot of people don’t know what that has done to us, but she’s gone through it herself. I also appreciate her commitment to workers’ rights and keeping unions alive.”
Jeff Manternach, who identified himself as the son of former Republican Iowa Rep. Gene Manternach, said he grew up a Republican and was encouraged to make the switch during Finkenauer’s first run for the Iowa House.