In House floor speech, Iowa U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer bids farewell

Rep. Abby Finkenauer talks with journalists Nov. 3 at the Linn County Democrats' office in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The
Rep. Abby Finkenauer talks with journalists Nov. 3 at the Linn County Democrats’ office in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — In her farewell to Congress, U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer paid tribute Wednesday to her family — despite their doubts about her decision to seek elected office — and the voters in Iowa’s 1st District “for giving me the honor to serve.”

Finkenauer, a Democrat who was defeated by Republican Ashley Hinson in her bid for a second term, also hinted that she’s not done with public service. There has been speculation she will land a spot, including perhaps Secretary of Labor, in the incoming Biden administration.

Finkenauer said she followed the example of her firefighter grandfather who “just showed up and he helped people and he did his job.”

“That is what I have tried to do here every single day, both in Congress and in my four years in the Statehouse in Iowa,” she said in the House floor remarks.

“It is what I will continue to do in whatever I do next,” she said without offering specifics.

Her husband, Daniel Wasta, later added his own praise and suggested there’s more to come.

“Abby and her team got more done in two years than most members do in a career,” he said on Twitter. “You’d be wise not to underestimate her.”

Finkenauer spoke of her blue-collar roots that motivated her to try to make more opportunities available to working families. The reason she entered public service was because of her dad, a union pipefitter-welder, and her mom, a school secretary, both retired.


“My parents couldn’t give me a trust fund or a debt-free college, but what they gave me was worth a hell of a lot more,” she said. They taught her to treat others with respect, make sure work was done and “about standing up for those who need a voice and, most importantly, to never think you are better than anyone else.”

They were skeptical when their 24-year-old daughter told them she was planning to run for a seat in the Iowa Legislature.

“My Mom blurted out, ‘Why in the heck are you doing that?’” Finkenauer recounted. Over the past seven-and-a-half years “I hope every day has been the answer.”

Finkenauer’s agenda in her two-year term was heavy on worker protection, collective bargaining, rural infrastructure and economic development. Many of the bills she introduced were co-sponsored by Republicans. She became the youngest woman to have a bill passed by the House. But most of her bills passed by the House didn’t get far in the GOP-controlled Senate.

However, the Peers Support for Veterans Families Act that Finkenauer co-sponsored — with a Republican — was signed into law by President Donald Trump earlier this month.

Finkenauer is the first one-term House member from Iowa since Republican William Scherle was defeated by Tom Harkin in 1974.

Beginning in January, Hinson will represent the 20-county 1st District that includes Linn, Black Hawk, Dubuque and Marshall counties.

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

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