It’s an understatement, Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson says, that she sees “a lot of chaos and dysfunction” when she looks at Congress.
The second-term Republican state lawmaker from Marion believes that if elected to federal office in 2020, she has the experience, common sense, work ethic and drive to make a difference in Iowa’s 1st U.S. House District that includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown.
“I think I have a unique skill set in being able to consensus-build and to problem-solve,” said Hinson, who filed a statement of candidacy Monday with the Federal Election Commission. “I have done that by developing relationships with people in the Legislature. I have that drive to continue that on the bigger scale.”
To do that, she will have to defeat first-term U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, 30, a Dubuque Democrat elected last November. Hinson and Finkenauer served together for one term in the Iowa House.
Hinson, 35, a former Cedar Rapids television news anchor, is the only Republican to get into the race at this point, though there is speculation former U.S. Rep. Rod Blum will run again to try to reclaim the seat. He didn’t respond to questions Monday.
Hinson said she’s doing a lot of listening to voters across the largely rural 20-county 1st District. Many of the issues on the minds of residents, such as trade and tariffs, affect urban and rural voters, she said.
“If rural Iowa does well, suburban Iowa does well and vice versa,” Hinson said. “I think more than ever, Iowans are becoming aware of the fact that it’s all very interconnected.”
Hinson also sees health care as a key issue, especially costs.
“Ultimately, people want more transparency on what health care costs actually are,” she said, recalling that after the birth of her and her husband’s second child she read the hospital bill line-by-line.
“What I learned from that is that I paid $18 for an Ibuprofen. That was a shock to the system,” she said. Controlling costs shouldn’t be about eliminating coverages but “we may need to look at how we do that differently … to come up with a solution to provide that coverage that reduces the cost for others as well.”
The chairwoman of the state House Transportation Committee, Hinson thinks voters are interested in investing in infrastructure. However, the nationwide $1 trillion price tag being discussed scares a lot of them. The cost of upgrading infrastructure has to be weighed against the cost of deteriorating roads, bridges and other public works, she said.
Immigration, regardless of voters’ party affiliation, remains an issue, Hinson said. It’s not only a security issue, she said, but about the need for legal immigration because many employers rely on immigrants to fill jobs.
“We need a pipeline to have the workers we need,” she said.
The response to Hinson’s announcement was swift. The Finkenauer campaign issued a statement highlighting the representative’s commitment to her district.
“Congresswoman Finkenauer is focused on representing the hardworking families of Iowa’s 1st Congressional District,” said P.J. Price, Finkenauer’s finance director. “She’s shown that she’ll work with anyone who’s serious about helping Iowans — and that she’ll stand up to anyone, Democrat or Republican, who’s not looking out for them. She’ll continue standing up for working families, our farmers, lowering health care costs, and fighting for investment in our infrastructure for Iowa communities.”
Hinson, on the other hand, has “demonstrated time and again that she will put her party over the people she represents,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said in a statement. “Whether it is workers’ rights, accessible health care, or funding for our schools, Rep. Hinson went out of her way to do what her party demanded, and not what was best for Iowans.”
Hinson called that a misrepresentation of her record to “flare up the partisan rhetoric.”
“I don’t believe that I will be one of a herd. I can distinguish myself,” she said. “I believe hard work is rewarded and I think that same effort will prove itself to be a win for Iowans. That’s why I’m running.”