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Finkenauer Takes 1st District, Is One Of Iowa's First Two Female Representatives In U.S. House

Democrat Abby Finkenauer will be one of Iowa’s first two female representative in the U.S. House, beating out two-term incumbent Rod Blum in the 1st Congressional District that covers 20 counties in the state’s northeast corner.

Returns from the Iowa Secretary of State show Finkenauer beat Blum by five points, 50.9 percent to 45.97 percent. Libertarian Troy Hageman carved out 3.07 percent of the vote, with 332,678 total voters weighing in on the race.

"Tonight we as Iowans made very clear exactly who we are. Tonight we rejected fear and division." - Representative-Elect Abby Finkenauer (D-IA)

Finkenauer will be joined in the U.S. House by Representative-elect Cindy Axne, who won the state's 3rd Congressional District. The Associated Press declared Finkenauer the winner in the 1st District shortly before calling the 3rd for Axne. Sitting U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, elected in 2014, is the state's first female member of Congress.

Running as a strong advocate for organized labor and the working class, Finkenauer characterized her win as a repudiation of “fear and division” in this district that Donald Trump carried by three points.

“Tonight we as Iowans made very clear exactly who we are,” Finkenauer told the hundreds of supporters who gathered at 7 Hills Brewery in Dubuque’s Millwork District to watch the returns come in. “Tonight we rejected fear and division. Tonight we proved we step up for our friends, our family, and our neighbors."

At 29 years old, the two-term state representative from Sherrill, north of Dubuque, Finkenauer is one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress. Her relative youth gave some voters in the district pause, but Finkenauer told her supporters Tuesday night that her victory should encourage young people across the state.

“I want every single child in this state to know, you can do anything. It does not matter where you come from, who you are, if you’ve got folks around you who believe in you,” she said. “It can be done.”

Supporter Linda Sorensen of Dubuque said she’s inspired that Finkenauer decided to get involved in the political process at such a young age.

“I like her energy. I like that she’s young,” Sorensen said. “She’s got a good chance of changing things and that’s what I’m interested in.”

Incumbent Rod Blum was initially slated to watch the returns roll in from a banquet room at the Best Western in Dubuque, before the campaign moved his election night event to a smaller venue at the Trackside Bar in Peosta, ten miles down Hwy 20. Initially slated to address supporters, Blum did not appear and did not give a concession speech. His staff later issued a written statement from Blum, in which he urged Finkenauer to think and vote independently.

“It was a uniquely American opportunity for the son of parents who didn't make it past the 10th grade to be elected to Congress, and it has been an honor to serve the 1st District," Blum's statement said. "My first vote in Congress [opposing then-speaker John Boehner] ...was against the leadership of my own party. I urge Abby Finkenauer to similarly prove her independence from big donors and the leadership of her party when she takes this same vote in Congress.” 

Blum did not shy away from aligning himself with President Donald Trump, who flipped the district after President Barack Obama carried it twice by double digits. Blum appeared with Trump when he made a stop at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta in July.

Voters on both sides of the political spectrum said Trump, his administration and his priorities factored into their decisions at the polls.

"I like her energy. I like that she's young[...]she's got a good chance of changing things and that's what I'm interested in." - Linda Sorensen, Finkenauer supporter

Finkenauer supporter Cheri Loveless of Dubuque says she hopes the Democrat will act a check on the president.

“I was hoping to see people be as disgusted by his behavior as I am and I was hoping tonight that would be reflected,” she said.

Loveless says the apparent referendum on the president says a lot about the values of voters.

“I think it has more to say about the people, who we are and what do we value. I have faith that we value others,” Loveless said. “I think we need to care for each other more.”

Democrats regained control of the House Tuesday night, after candidates held and gained districts across the country, putting the party in the positon to truly act as a check on the president.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter