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Chuck Grassley, in elected office since 1959, is running again


Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Chuck Grassley, who has spent his career presenting himself as a regular Iowa farmer and not a politician, has decided six decades in elected office is not enough. On Friday, one week after his 88th birthday, Iowa’s senior senator announced he is running for an eighth six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

“I’m running for re-election — a lot more to do for Iowa,” a tweet posted at 4 a.m. on Grassley’s campaign Twitter account. The tweet features a .gif of Grassley on an early morning run, shot from a distance as the longtime runner lopes along.

It’s become uncommon for candidates to offer policy details when launching campaigns, but most at least discuss a couple of issues in general terms when announcing a run. All Grassley offered the public was that vague “a lot more to do.” Of course, a politician who has received the sort of gentle, often supportive, treatment from his state’s media that Grassley has enjoyed since he first ran for the Iowa House of Representative in 1958 doesn’t really need to discuss issues.

Consider for example, the so-called “Full Grassley,” the nickname the media has adopted for his annual tour of Iowa counties. Every year, Grassley’s office sends out notices when the tour begins and when it ends, and most Iowa media outlets relay that information using the same language as Grassley’s press release.

But the annual 99-county tour isn’t as full as it was when Grassley started it during his first run for the U.S. Senate in 1980. Grassley counts meetings at businesses and other private venues that restrict attendance the same as a public town hall, which allows the senator and his handlers to avoid audiences likely to be critical of him. It’s been over a decade since Grassley held a public town hall in some of the state’s most populous counties, including Johnson, Linn, Polk, Story, Black Hawk, Woodbury and Dubuque.

Grassley’s avoidance of public meetings in areas of the state where a substantial number of Democrats may be in the audience goes unreported by major media outlets as they cover the annual Full Grassley.

If Grassley is reelected and serves a full term, he will be 95 years old when his new term expires.

An Iowa Poll published in March found that 55 percent of respondents said they hoped Grassley would not run for reelection, and only 28 percent said they supported the idea of him adding another six years to his 42 years in the Senate. In June, 71 percent of respondents told the Iowa Poll Grassley shouldn’t run again, while 27 percent were in favor of it. Grim as the poll results seem, neither means a majority of Iowans won’t vote for Grassley next year.

An Iowa Poll published earlier this week found Grassley beating his best known Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer by 18 percentage points — 55 to 37 — among self-described likely voters.

Despite being “best known,” Finkenauer, a former one-term member of Congress originally from Dubuque, isn’t well-known statewide. Forty-two percent of respondents told the Iowa Poll they weren’t sure who she is.

Two other Democrats have announced they are running for the U.S. Senate in 2022: Dave Muhlbauer, a former one-term Crawford County supervisor, and Dr. Glenn Hurst, a member of the city council in the western Iowa town of Minden (pop. 600).

According to the most recent FEC campaign filing, Grassley’s main campaign committee has raised $2,479,800.53, and had $2,549,206.47 on hand as of June 30, with no outstanding debts.

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