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Iowa 1st District Candidates Prep For Final Debate

IPR/Pat Blank

Credit Finkenauer for Congress
Democratic candidate Abby Finkenauer on the campaign trail

According to two term Republican Rep. Rod Blum, health care is the number one topic of discussion when he talks with constituents.  He admits what’s in place now is not working but he thinks it can be made better.

“We’ve kinda dismantled Obamacare piece by piece, but some pieces are still there, some aren’t," he said.  “I’d like to see us look at each individual little piece of health care like re-importing drugs across the country's borders, selling insurance across state lines, negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies for Medicare and Medicaid. Let’s just start looking at each of those individual things and start passin’ them and I would think they could be bi-partisan.”

Democratic State Rep. Abby Finkenauer says from the moment she announced her candidacy, she was asked how she plans to make coverage more comprehensive.

"You know I’m sorry this is not how this should work, and I knew in that moment this was going to be one of the biggest issues out there," she said. "We’ve gotta to everything we can to put politics aside and actually get some solutions in health care, because it’s not working as it should and we’ve gotta fix it."

The 1st Congressional District spans 20 counties in northeast Iowa, including a considerable amount of farmland, so it makes sense that another hot topic involves tariffs. Congressman Blum defends President Donald Trump’s trade policies and says better days are ahead for farmers.

“I have heard, and let’s just say through 'the back channels' of Washington D.C.  that China has been reaching out and wanting to sit down at the table," he said. “I’ve also heard President Trump say 'I’m not ready to sit down at the table yet'.”   

Blum admits, “There is some short term pain, there is no doubt, I’m not denying that for our farmers. But I think the long term gain is going to be phenomenal for our farmers." 

Finkenauer is not that patient. She said those who depend on agriculture need help now. 

“One of the things that comes up a lot is the fact that this trade war was started on Twitter," she said.  "The instability and chaos being felt in Washington D.C. right now is hitting us hard in Iowa.  We’re projected to lose $2.2 billion with our agriculture, but with manufacturing on top of it. That’s the kind of stuff that comes up."

According to the latest figures from the secretary of state’s office, roughly 37 percent of the voters on this district have identified as no party. Finkenauer believes those numbers tend to favor her.

“I don’t know if they’re Democrat, Republican or no party, it doesn’t really matter to me," she said. "My job is to listen to them and make sure they’re being heard in Washington D.C.. That’s something, quite frankly’ that hasn’t happened here in the 1st District in the past four years.  It’s something that’s gotta change and I’m willing to go do that."

On the other hand, incumbent Congressman Blum says he believes he has more work to do and is the right person for the job. 

"I’m somebody that started with nothing. The house I was born in had dirt floors, two of them," he said.  "My parents had tenth grade educations, both of them. And I lived the American dream. I started with nothing and through education, hard work and some risk taking I lived the American dream. I want to make sure the American dream is there for our children and grandchildren, that’s why I’m there, that’s why I think I’m suited for congress.”

The 63 year old Blum says however, he believes there may be some misconceptions about him.

“Washington D.C. has not changed me,” he said.  "You can ask our leadership that, because sometimes I’m a thorn in their side on a lot of their issues. And lastly I’m not a career politician. I don’t want to be a career politician. I go there to do what’s right and sometimes what’s right is voting against my own party."

Finkenauer, who’s 29, says in her case what you see is who she is.

“I’ve been really open and honest with folks about who I am," she said. "I’m the girl who grew up in Sherrill Iowa, a little north of Dubuque, a town with more cows than people. And I’ve been able to represent Dubuque for the past four years.   I have stood up for my friends and family every chance that I’ve gotten and that’s who I’ll be in Washington D.C." 

Tonight’s debate will be held in Cedar Rapids.

Pat Blank is the host of All Things Considered