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Who is Ashley Hinson? Meet the GOP Iowa congresswoman running for re-election
Hinson faces Democratic challenger Liz Mathis in Iowa’s 2nd district
Hundreds piled into the Lynn Dunn Memorial Building at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Central City on a Sunday evening in late August.
Attendees piled coleslaw and pulled pork onto paper plates as Ashley Hinson fiddled on her violin alongside a four-piece band, playing along to a series of country tunes.
⧉ Related article: Who is Liz Mathis? Meet the Democrat running for Congress in Northeast Iowa
A slate of GOP speakers would soon take the stage, telling the crowd the mother of two would continue to be a strong conservative voice in Congress for parents against pandemic-related school closures, masking and vaccination mandates and transgender policies like the one passed in the Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion.
Some in the crowd held signs: “Moms for Ashley.”
Hinson blamed Democratic President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress for high inflation, high gas prices, "a wide-open border" and high crime rates. She pledged to continue to fight for “Iowa values in Washington, D.C.” and oppose what she deemed “radical nonsense,” referring to the Linn-Mar school policies to protect transgender students from discrimination. Hinson’s two sons attend Linn-Mar schools.
The policies spell out inclusive practices for transgender students, including giving students access to restrooms, locker rooms or changing areas that correspond with their gender identity. They also protect students’ privacy by keeping their transgender status private at school, if they prefer. And students in seventh grade or older have priority over their parents or guardians of a gender support plan at school.
“Clearly, they have decided that the school board knows better what is best for kids’ mental health and physical well-being over the parents,” she said. “But we know kids don’t belong to school boards. Kids don’t belong to government. Kids belong to parents. And parents matter.”
The line drew among the loudest applause of the night.
Who is Ashley Hinson?
Town of residence: Marion
Occupation: Member of the U.S. House and former journalist/news anchor
Political experience: Hinson served in the Iowa House from 2017 to 2021. She won a seat in the U.S. House in the 2020 election, defeating incumbent Democrat Abby Finkenauer.
Campaign website: ashleyhinson.com/home
The Marion Republican is running in Iowa’s new 2nd Congressional District against Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis of Hiawatha. Hinson currently represents Iowa’s 1st U.S. House district. Iowa's 2nd Congressional District includes 22 counties in Iowa's northeast corner, and includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque and Mason City.
Hinson, a former state lawmaker and former KCRG-TV news anchor, is serving her first term in the U.S. House after unseating first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer in 2020 and outperforming former President Donald Trump in the swing district.
Hinson and Mathis are running competitive campaigns and have support from the national Democratic and Republican parties as control of Congress hangs in the balance.
The district has flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in recent elections. Leading election forecaster The Cook Political Report lists the race as “likely Republican” this time. Both Roll Call and Inside Elections changed their forecasts for the race in Mathis’ direction, from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”
Democrats have a slight voter advantage over Republicans with nearly 9,600 more registered Democrats in the district. No-party voters, however, outnumber both registered Democrats and Republicans among the district’s nearly 560,000 voters.
2nd Congressional District
As of Oct. 3, the voter breakdown in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District:
159,048 active Democratic voters
158,573 active Republican voters
155,220 active no-party voters
3,637 other active voters
25,067 inactive Democratic voters
15,965 inactive Republican voters
41,239 inactive no party voters
1,157 other inactive voters
A check on Biden
Hinson, a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, said she is running to serve as a check against “reckless” spending and energy policies pushed by the Biden administration and House Democrats she argues have fueled “rampant inflation.”
“I’m hearing from Iowans that they want to reverse course on how the Democrats have taken this country, and that’s what I provide,” Hinson told The Gazette in an interview.
While in Congress, Hinson has introduced bills and amendments blocked by House Democrats seeking to reverse pandemic-related school closures, federal masking and vaccination mandates, and Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness plan.
She has also helped pass legislation to expand access to mental health care services for veterans in rural areas, directed funding to upgrade and modernize locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River and supported legislation boosting ethanol sales that support the state’s biofuels industry.
Hinson said she and House Republicans are committed to combating inflation and strengthening the economy. Their plan calls for cutting government spending, ramping up energy production and increasing funding to border enforcement and police officers.
Hinson’s, too, has touted her efforts to support Iowa moms and families by working to expand access to maternal health care, address a nationwide infant formula shortage and increase affordable child care options.
Mathis contends Hinson has voted against bills that will improve the lives of Iowans and would decrease the deficit, such as the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act. The latter limits monthly cost sharing for insulin products to no more than $35 for Medicare beneficiaries and requires the federal government to negotiate prices for some drugs covered under Medicare. The former provided pandemic relief dollars to state, local and tribal governments, and increased the federal child tax credit.
Hinson said the price tag of the American Rescue Plan was far too high, directed a vast majority of dollars to items other than public health measures to deal with the pandemic, and came with few limitations and little oversight on how it was spent. She noted she has introduced separate legislation to expand the federal child tax credit.
She has also has railed against the social spending and deficit reduction package known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which is paid for with new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement on wealthy individuals and entities.
She has argued the legislation represents more federal government taxing, spending and overreach that will not constrain inflation.
Mathis and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have also ridiculed Hinson for voting against the federal infrastructure bill signed into law while praising projects supported by their funding and writing letters requesting funding for transportation projects in the district.
Hinson said she opposed the act because it was tied to negotiations over social spending she said would worsen inflation. However, the money was going to be spent regardless, and "of course I’m going to fight like hell to make sure that resources come back to my state."
She partnered with Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois in including funding for locks and dams in a separate U.S. House bill and later joined in a letter to the Army Corps to encourage it to prioritize lock and dam upgrades.
“I’ve been clear about my support for targeted infrastructure investments, and I’ve delivered on that goal here in Washington, D.C., for the district,” Hinson said. “So I voted ‘no’ on that package because it spent too much money and didn’t do it in a targeted way.”
Hinson sponsored legislation that passed the House this summer to improve farmers’ access to costly precision agriculture technologies, which can increase crop yield, improve distribution, lower emissions and prevent soil degradation.
She has said she will seek to secure funding for animal health research and biotechnologies in next year’s farm bill, and will seek to protect crop insurance and other safety net programs for farmers, while pushing against climate change policies that increase or impose new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on farmers.
Hinson has endorsed a proposed bill from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would ban abortion at 15 weeks with some exceptions. She said she supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Democrats have warned for months that Republicans would move ahead with a federal abortion ban if they win back control of Congress. It’s a message that has helped drive an increase in voter registration among women in several states in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer overturning Roe v. Wade.
Hinson said she does not support criminal charges for anyone who receives an abortion, including those who may travel to another state where it remains legal, but supports prosecuting physicians who administer abortions in states where it is illegal.
“I’m pro-life and I believe we should be focused on getting to a place where we don’t have to have abortions,” Hinson said. “I want women to be able to have all of the tools to choose life, and my record shows that.”
In Congress, Hinson said she would continue championing “pro-life” policies: ensuring taxpayer dollars do not fund abortions, expanding maternal health care services and supporting expecting mothers during pregnancy and once their babies are born. She introduced legislation to help expand maternal health care access for those in rural communities, as well as legislation to ensure adult women can access Food and Drug Administration-approved birth control pills over the counter at a local pharmacy.
Mathis and Iowa Democrats have questioned Hinson’s commitment to bipartisanship, saying she votes in line with the Republican Party. Hinson said her track record in Congress shows her willingness to work across the aisle.
She broke with her party as one of seven Republicans to support a House-passed bill that allows for the year-round sale nationwide of E15 ethanol blend. Hinson also is a member of the bipartisan House Biofuels Caucus, and has partnered with Democrats to co-sponsor and pass various forms of legislation.
Most notably, Hinson was the lead Republican on the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act, which was sponsored by Iowa Democratic U.S. Rep. Axne and signed into law by Biden.
“I stand for taxpayers. I stand for rural America. And I stand for safety and security,” Hinson said.
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