In the past week, three candidates for seats representing the tri-state area in Washington, D.C., touched on the topic of the divisive tone in politics as they visited the region.
U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa — just past her first term’s four-month mark — held her first town hall in the area at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer had one town hall in the Telegraph Herald’s coverage area during her two years in that office.
Before that, the last non-campaign, public town hall from a representative of Iowa’s First District featured former Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum at Dubuque Senior High School in May 2017. That event was notable for its audibly angry opposition section of the crowd, which gained national media attention.
Hinson’s town hall in Manchester had a less raucous crowd than Blum’s event, but there was some heat from the audience. One audience member snatched the microphone out of the hands of a staff moderator with an amplified thump before offering up some fiery questions and condemnations at the new congresswoman.
Another member of the crowd, Shari Flatt — leader of local progressive group Indivisible Dubuque — pointed a finger at Hinson’s own rhetoric for some of that fire.
“Between social media and how you’re talking here today, you are ignoring 200,000 people who did not vote for you by being divisive and putting names on them, like ‘The Radical Left,’” Flatt said. “Day after day on Facebook and Twitter, it’s ‘The Radical Left.’ Does radical mean good to most of us? No. When someone is treated negatively, anger can come from them.”
Hinson accepted the comments calmly, then defended herself but said she had listened.
“What I’ve tried to do is make it clear that I am willing to work with anybody who will help this district,” she said. “It’s also important, though, when I’m calling attention to policies that I think are radical — which I do think some policies coming out of Washington are. I appreciate your comments and will have them in the back of my mind, moving forward, about how we carry ourselves and the language we use.”
Democrat Dave Muhlbauer was in Dubuque last week to privately kick off his campaign for the seat held by longtime U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. In a sitdown with the TH, he, too, weighed in on a divisive political climate in Washington that he said did no one any good.
“I don’t like this polarizing world of far right and far left,” he said. “It doesn’t help anybody. We’ve got to get down to what works for us and what gets us the resources and education and tools to make Iowa better and enable all Iowans to rise up and have a better quality of life.”
Republican Esther Joy King visited Galena on Wednesday as she vies again to represent Illinois’ 17th Congressional District. She said division and rhetoric is tearing the country apart.
“What I can be is one representative that behaves in a way that represents the values of unity,” she said. “That can be everything from talking to people you disagree with when they confront you on the street and having a dialogue, understanding where they’re coming from, from a place of love and acceptance rather than, ‘I’m good, and you’re evil.’”
Moments before, King was taken to task by a woman in a pink “Support Planned Parenthood” T-shirt, who had thought King’s stop would include a question-and-answer session.
SPOTLIGHT ON FINKENAUER
Finkenauer garnered some national attention Thursday when Politico reported that she was readying her own run for Grassley’s seat.
Finkenauer served two terms in the Iowa House of Representatives representing District 99 before serving one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was topped by Hinson in last fall’s election.
Politico reported that two sources familiar with Finkenauer’s plans said she “has started the process of assembling a potential campaign team.” Finkenauer did not respond a request for comment Friday from the TH.
On Thursday, after the Politico story broke, Finkenauer tweeted a picture of a rose and this message: “Are all these new followers because the secret is out about my amazing gardening farmer Twitter content?! Fun fact I’ve learned the last few months about shrub roses: The more they get cut down, the stronger they come back. Annnd.... that’s all I got for now!”
Grassley, 87, has said he will announce this fall whether he will seek re-election.
KIND BACKS U.S. DAIRY IN TRADE DISPUTE
An ongoing dispute between the United States and Canada over dairy regulations, one of the first such disputes using channels in the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, is playing out right in the backyard of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.
So, he has been right in the ring alongside U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in announcing enforcement actions against Canada to ensure the northern neighbor is meeting its USMCA requirements.
“Trade agreements work best when they are fully enforced, which is why I spent years working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure USMCA is fully enforceable and Wisconsin dairy farmers are able to compete on an even playing field,” Kind said in a statement. “I’ll continue to fight to ensure Wisconsin farmers, workers and families see the full benefits of USMCA, and look forward to working alongside the Administration to support our family farmers.”
Last week, Kind led a bipartisan letter to Tai and Secretary of Agriculture — and former Iowa governor — Tom Vilsack pushing for the enforcement actions.