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Iowa 1st District GOP Primary Features Businessman, State Lawmaker

Images provided by Hansen and Hinson campaigns.
Tuesday's 1st District GOP primary has Thomas Hansen (left) and Ashley Hinson running to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer in November.

A local political analyst predicts the GOP primary race in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District is likely to be lopsided. Two candidates are hoping to face Democrat Rep. Abby Finkenauer in November.

Small businessman and cattle rancher Thomas Hansen said he’s been interested in politics for decades.

“I bought my first book, “The Life and Times of George Washington,” when I was seven years old," he said. "I’ve studied history and constitutional philosophy for the last 50 years and so I decided it was time to step up a little farther than just Winneshiek County and decided to run for the 1st Congressional District.”

The 1st District spans 20 counties in the northeast part of the state and includes the cities of Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo.

Hansen, who lives near Decorah, has been chair of the Winneshiek County GOP since 2012. He faces an uphill battle against challenger Ashley Hinson, who is a current state lawmaker and former television reporter. 

University of Northern Iowa political science professor Chris Larimer said Hinson has several things in her favor.

“Ashley Hinson has an enormous advantage in terms of fundraising, she has an advantage in terms of elective office experience,” he explained. “She also has name recognition in terms of her legislative experience and her other work experience on television, and so those three factors will be a considerable advantage heading into the primary.”

Hinson said regardless of her time spent in the legislature and in front of the camera she’s been running an aggressive campaign.

“I don’t take the name I.D. for granted. I think I have to prove just like anyone else that I’m the right candidate for the job and I feel that the proof is in my record and my approach to policy making," she said. “I’ve tried to make that very clear in my time in the legislature and in my time as a candidate for this congressional seat.”

Hansen said he believes he has a plan that will draw voters to him much the way President Trump did in the presidential election.

“The first thing I did with my campaign was I sat down and I wrote out my plan for what I wanted to do and how I want to do them and put them on a website so everybody go there and read and see what I want to do," Hansen said. "I think the 2016 election showed that’s what people are looking for." 

Larimer said he believes much of what the Trump administration has done in the past four years will carry some weight in state races.

“It’s sort of usual to say the president is an issue in a Republican primary race, but to some extent the administration is because of the current COVID 19 pandemic and the response, and because congressional races are increasingly linked to what happens on the national level," he said.

Hinson who was endorsed by President Trump a little over a week ago said she is focusing on both healthcare and the economy.

“Obviously we’re facing some challenging times right now but I think making sure we have representative who can help get the country back on track and understands those issues will be a theme of the election going forward.

“I don’t think healthcare has gone away and it’s probably the number one issue I hear about. I do think COVID 19 has enhanced the focus on healthcare as something we do want to work on with sound policy moving forward," said Hinson.

Hansen said some his top priorities include illegal immigration and education. As far as health care, he has not had health insurance for more than 20 years. He said he believes in a free market approach to obtaining coverage.  He is adamant about how he would work with others.

“That’s part of what makes America great. We can talk and we can negotiate and we can compromise, but the one thing you shouldn’t compromise on is your principles," he said. “I refuse to compromise on my principles and negotiate with people that are looking to take away our rights or shred the Constitution."