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Franken wins the Democratic Senate primary and will face Sen. Grassley in November

Mike Franken greets supporters in Des Moines after winning the Democratic U.S. Senate primary.
Natalie Krebs
Mike Franken greets supporters at Des Moines' former Franklin Jr. High School after being declared the winner of the Democratic Senate primary.

Retired Navy Adm. Mike Franken will face Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in November, after winning the Democratic Senate primary Tuesday. Franken defeated former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer and western Iowa physician Glenn Hurst.

“Tonight, you’ve bestowed upon me a great honor, and I assume the responsibility to win this next race,” Franken told supporters gathered at a watch party at Des Moines' former Franklin Jr. High School Tuesday night.

Unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State's website shortly after midnight Wednesday show Franken with about 55 percent of the vote, with 98 of the state's 99 counties reporting. Finkenauer had just under 40 percent, and Hurst a little less than 5 percent. Franken ran up large margins of victory in some of the state's most populous counties: Polk, Linn and Johnson, while Finkenauer claimed victories in some counties along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers as well as in north-central Iowa.

This is Franken's second run for Senate. He finished second in the 2020 primary and entered this race with less statewide name recognition than Finkenauer, who in 2018 joined Cindy Axne as the first women elected to the U.S. House from Iowa. His popularity among Democrats and fundraising picked up as the primary got closer.

After the election was called for Franken shortly after 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, Finkenauer spoke to Franken by phone, and then addressed her supporters in Cedar Rapids.

“To Admiral Franken: what a heck of a campaign," she said. "I know you ran hard. You didn’t take a second for granted,” she said. “You gave it everything and I’m grateful for the service you’ve given to our country.”

Pointing to recent incidents of gun violence and the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority, she said her voters need to get behind Democrats up and down the ballot.

“You see I have to admit as much as I have given to this state -- to this country -- I ask you to do the same," she said. "To step up when it’s hard. To step up when you get knocked down. You might get knocked down again, but folks, you get back up. That is who we are as Iowans. That’s who we are as Americans."

In Des Moines, Franken told his supporters they had a lot of work to do in the months ahead. He promised that as a senator, he would follow a premise he learned in the military.

“And that is, caring for those you’ve never met as much as those you know. It’s a basic premise. It is why we are Democrats. It truly is.”

Grassley faced his own primary challenge Tuesday from Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin, which Grassley easily won with roughly 73 percent of the vote.

Zachary Oren Smith in Cedar Rapids contributed to this story.

This story was updated on June 8 at 5:45 p.m. to correct the year in which Reps. Finkenauer and Axne were elected to the U.S. House.

Michael Leland is IPR's News Director