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Hinson Hopes To Return Iowa's 1st District To GOP Control

In this Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, State Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, watches as House Speaker Pat Grassley takes the oath of office during the opening day of the Iowa Legislature, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. More Republican women than ever are seeking House seats this year after the 2018 election further diminished their limited ranks in Congress. But so far it appears that any gains this November could be modest.
Charlie Neibergall
Republican state lawmaker Ashley Hinson is challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer for Iowa's 1st District seat.

For more than a decade, Ashley Hinson was a news reporter and morning anchor for an eastern Iowa television station. She then made a dramatic career change.

“We are just 152 days into Donald Trump’s presidency and he’s already coming back to Iowa, isn’t that awesome? My name is Ashley Hinson I am what you would call a ‘recovering journalist’," explained Hinson at a rally for President Trump in 2017. “I was a news anchor for more than 10 years before I decided to get into state politics here in Iowa.”

Hinson was elected to Iowa House District 67, which covers Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha and Robbins, in 2017. She is now challenging Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat.

University of Northern Iowa political science professor Chris Larimer said the combination of state-level politics and her time in front of the camera is an advantage for Hinson.

“There’s actually a scale out there for ranking the strength of a challenger and one of the key parts of that is prior elected office experience. She does have elected office experience so she does have some name recognition in the district and on top of that she has name recognition from her work in television, so she is probably in a better position than a challenger who is coming in with no prior elected office experience," Larimer said. “She has name recognition and she knows how to run a campaign so that’s going to work to her advantage.”

One thing that has been a disadvantage for not only Hinson but for all candidates, is trying to campaign and still comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s hard to have coffee with a mask on obviously, I like that in-person contact as well. I knocked between my Statehouse races about 20,000 doors myself and it is a very different way to campaign, but I’m trying to find virtual ways to connect with people as possible," said Hinson. "I‘m putting a lot of content out on my social media pages so people have access to where I stand.”

Hinson said when she has had the chance to connect with voters in person , there are two major issues that are top of mind.

“People are still concerned about being able to grow and expand their businesses. I’ve been traveling the district and talking to small business owners. Some manufacturers are still seeing their business grow and expand even in this challenging time for our state and for our country.” Hinson said. “So long term economic security is still a big issue for people, economy and job security are probably the No. 1 and No. 2 issues I’m hearing from people about.”

Professor Larimer points out that Iowa’s 1st District is unique because of its large number of no-party voters. According to the latest numbers from the Iowa secretary of state’s office, 35 percent are registered Democrats and 30 percent are Republicans, the rest are no party.

“Certainly among female voters in Iowa, there’s a sizeable gap in support for Democratic candidates and Republican candidates both at the presidential level and at the U.S Senate level where Joe Biden is up by double digits among female voters and the same thing for Teresa Greenfield," said Larimer. "If that’s the case in the 1st Congressional District, that’s going to be a challenge for Ashley Hinson to overcome I think.”

Iowa’s 1st District covers 20 counties mostly in northeast Iowa and includes the cities of Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown.

Pat Blank is the host of All Things Considered