State Rep. Ashley Hinson announces a 2020 challenge to U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer

State Rep. Ashley Hinson. — official photo

State Rep. Ashley Hinson announced on Tuesday she is running for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District. The Marion Republican is the first challenger to Rep. Abby Finkenauer, the Democrat who defeated incumbent Rod Blum in 2018.

Hinson’s announcement was no surprise. On Monday, it was widely reported that Hinson had filed the official paperwork for her candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. Even before that, national Republicans were saying Hinson was going to run against Finkenauer.

During a Jan. 17 panel discussion on recruiting female candidates that was aired by C-SPAN, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Hinson had already decided to run for Congress.

“She approached us the day, I think, of the swearing in [of Finkenauer] and said she’s running,” Emmer said. “This is a former TV news anchor, a sitting state senator [sic], incredibly polished.”

Emmer may have gotten Hinson’s role in the Iowa legislature wrong, but he is right about her TV career. Hinson was a reporter and morning news anchor at KCRG-TV from 2005 to 2015, before running for the open seat in Iowa House District 67 in 2016.

Hinson referenced her time on TV at the beginning of the announcement video she posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

“I’m Ashley Hinson. You know me from the morning news,” she began. Hinson said she enjoyed her news career “because I got the see the goodness of Iowans from every walk of life.”

“But when I watch TV today, I’m outraged by the chaos and dysfunction I see in Washington,” Hinson continued. As she said this, images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Finkenauer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Bernie Sanders flashed on TV screen behind her. Hinson then says, “Here’s a news flash: socialism isn’t the answer.”

“It’s time for new leaders in Washington, who know how to build consensus and solve problems,” Hinson said. “And that’s why I’m running for Congress.”

Since entering politics, Hinson has often described herself as a consensus builder, but she has been a reliable vote for the Republicans, even on the most controversial issues, since joining the legislature.

In 2017, she voted in favor of gutting collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers. Last year, Hinson voted for the so-called “fetal heartbeat bill” that banned almost all abortions after six weeks. In both 2017 and this year, she voted for bills containing provisions designed to defund Planned Parenthood.

These last votes, in particular, led critics to accuse Hinson of hypocrisy. In Jan. 2017, Hinson told the League of Women Voters forum in Linn County that she had once relied on Planned Parenthood for medical services.

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When I first moved to town here 11 years ago, I couldn’t get in to an OB/GYN for over a year. And I did receive services from Planned Parenthood. So as a woman, I have taken advantage of that. And they were just run-of-the-mill services that any woman should have access to.

And so, from that perspective, I tend to think the government should stay out of — maybe that makes me Libertarian on this issue, I don’t know — I think the government should stay out of women’s health care decisions, typically.

Speaking to the Gazette on Monday, Hinson said controlling healthcare costs and investing in infrastructure are key issues for her.

Hinson won her first election in Iowa House District 67 in 2016 by 25 points. In 2018, she won her reelection by four points.