Friday Oct. 5 in UNI’s Gallagher Bluedorn auditorium candidates for the United States House of Representatives faced off in front of voters from the first district. The crowd seemed pretty evenly split with supporters of either candidate based on the cheers they respectively received walking out on stage.
The Godfather of Eastern Iowa television, Ron Steele and anchor Abby Turbin moderated the debate, surprisingly there were no disruptions from the audience that would have caused for a pause in the debate. It was cleverly announced by the moderators that any outbursts would result in a 30 second penalty for the candidate they support. Perhaps the Chairpersons of Congressional Committees could take a page from KWWL’s playbook to ensure uninterrupted hearings in Washington DC.
Democrat Candidate Abby Finkenaur who has previously served in the Iowa House from Dubuque (2015-2017). She and incumbent, Congressman Blum are similarly new to the political game, both ran for political office and won for the first time in 2014. Currently, the average time served in the US House of Representatives is nearly 10 years according to the Congressional Research Service. This is the Republican Congressman’s third election at 63 years old.
In light of the media attention over the past month surrounding the confirmation process of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh a question was posed asking what topics the candidate could work across the aisle on. Even though the candidates have very different political beliefs, the main points in their answers were not too dissimilar.
Frequently revisited points of Finkenaur’s were “work across the aisle,” and “get things done.” She stressed the importance of immigration reform and the opioid crisis. Blum listed the many bills he was involved with that Democrat Representatives also co-sponsored.
Every question seemed to be answered generally in the same style by each candidate. Blum would list examples, talk with his hands, and reference relevant legislation he’s worked on since his first election. Finkenaur would use empowered, yet vague, sentences about changing the way things are done and “takin’ the politics out” of passing bills. She took time to describe relevant relationships with her brother and parents and her Iowan workforce farmer connection.
“I stand, respect and defend the second amendment,” It was shocking to hear a young Democrat running for Federal office say these words. Most Dem. candidates running for office are further left in ideology and political platform than they were several election cycles ago. However, considering the Iowan voting base, it could be inferred to clearly support the second Amendment.
The two biggest points of contention brought up were about the ethics violations that each candidate encountered while in political office. Both described the violations as common mistakes that elected officials commonly make when filling out the cumbersome stacks of paperwork that come with political office. The only time during the debate that the moderators exhibited any sass was when Abby Finkenaur answered the question about her ethics violation by describing Blum’s with more detail, Ron Steel with humor said “I’m not sure you answered my question.”
‘Iowa nice’ is something we pride ourselves on. After seeing attack ads against Congressman Blum online for nearly the past year and attack ads against Representative Finkenaur for the past couple of months it was thought that the debate might get a little unpleasant to watch. On the contrary, overall both candidates answered questions very differently but without outright rudeness or meanness directed towards one another and the audience, for the most part, behaved the same.