Government

Even if she wins, Finkenauer may not be youngest congresswoman

State Representative Abby Finkenauer, a candidate for the Iowa's 1st Congressional District seat, speaks during the 1st Congressional District Democratic Convention at the Kirkwood Community College Regional Center in Hiawatha on Saturday, April 29, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
State Representative Abby Finkenauer, a candidate for the Iowa's 1st Congressional District seat, speaks during the 1st Congressional District Democratic Convention at the Kirkwood Community College Regional Center in Hiawatha on Saturday, April 29, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Abby Finkenauer was hoping a Democratic “blue wave” would carry her to victory in Iowa’s 1st District and make her the youngest woman ever elected to the United States House.

That’s looking less likely following an upset victory in a New York primary. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knocked off 20-year incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking member of the Democratic caucus and a possible successor to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

As with Finkenauer, Ocasio-Cortez is 28 — but she’s 75 days younger than the Dubuque state representative. Both are younger than Republican Elise Stefanik, who was elected to the House from a New York congressional district at the age of 30.

Of course, if Finkenauer wins and Ocasio-Cortez loses, she would be the youngest woman elected to the House. Although what polling has been done in the 1st District shows Finkenauer to be competitive with two-term Republican Rep. Rod Blum, 63, also of Dubuque, the path to victory may be easier for Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez is running in a younger, more racially diverse district than the 20-county 1st District that includes Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown.

Ocasio-Cortez argued that Crowley did not reflect the majority-minority population in the district. It’s 49 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, 18 percent Asian and 22 percent white, and 61 percent are 51 or younger.

That’s not the case in the 1st District where nearly 89 percent of residents are white and about 47 percent are 52 or older.

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And while Finkenauer faces a well-financed incumbent in a district that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, Cortez is facing a GOP opponent who doesn’t appear to have raised or spent more than $5,000 through early June in a district where Clinton carried with 78 percent of the vote.

Finkenauer hasn’t made age an issue other than to say she’s running “because it’s time for young progressives to step up.” She also frequently mentions that she’s still paying on her college loans.

Her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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