State Sen. Liz Mathis announces bid for Ashley Hinson’s 1st District seat

Sen. Liz Mathis speaking at Christina Bohannan’s 50th birthday party/fundraiser, July 2, 2021. — Jason Smith/Little Village

State Sen. Liz Mathis announced on Tuesday she is running for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District. Mathis, a Democrat who has represented Linn County in the state Senate since 2011, will challenge first-term Republican incumbent Rep. Ashley Hinson, who has already said she is running for reelection in 2022.

“It’s clear Iowans want leaders who care about fairness and honesty, who want to make sure businesses and workers succeed, who want to see communities thrive, so that our kids and grandkids inherit an even better Iowa,” Mathis said, in a voice familiar to many in eastern Iowa, in her announcement video posted on social media.

Tuesday’s announcement had long been expected. Speaking at a birthday party/fundraiser for state Rep. Christina Bohannan earlier this month, Mathis said she was “seriously considering a run for the 1st District,” and added, “if the campaign for that were a train, my train has left the depot and I am fueling that engine with coal. So I am well on my way on the tracks.”

Mathis was a reporter and news anchor for 27 years, first at KWWL and then at KCRG, before going to work for area nonprofits in 2007. Earlier this year, Mathis retired from the Cedar Rapids-based child advocacy organization Four Oaks, where she had served as community engagement director.

Incumbent Hinson is also a former KCRG news anchor, and the widespread recognition that afforded her in the 1st District was a factor in her in narrow 2020 victory, when she defeated first-term Democrat Abby Finkenauer, winning 51 percent of the vote.

Mathis doesn’t mention Hinson in the video posted Tuesday, but after saying she has heard from “so many in eastern Iowa” concerns about “whether the people we send to Washington are putting Iowa first or just playing politics,” Mathis then offers a list of matters of concern coinciding with Hinson’s voting record during her first year in Congress.

“It’s not the time to curry favor with other politicians or climb the political ladder, or to turn a blind eye to the riots of Jan. 6, the vote against domestic violence against women or COVID-19 relief for Iowa families and businesses,” Mathis said.

Hinson, who has rarely passed up an opportunity to flatter Donald Trump, voted against the creation of a bipartisan select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and has gone out of her way to avoid answering questions regarding Trump’s role in instigating that violence.

Hinson was also one of 172 House Republicans to vote against renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in April. The NRA made voting against the bill a top priority, because it opposed a provision that prohibits people convicted for misdemeanor charges of domestic violence or stalking from possessing firearms, and a provision closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” that allowed someone convicted of stalking or committing violence against a person they are dating to possess firearms. After voting against, Hinson said she would have supported a “clean” version of the bill backed by the NRA that didn’t contain those provisions.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks was one of 33 Republicans who broke ranks with her party’s leadership and the NRA, and voted in favor of renewing the VAWA.

Hinson also voted against the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill both times it came before the House.

In addition to not mentioning Hinson by name, Mathis also does not mention the name of the party she belongs to either in the video or on her official campaign website, suggesting she may run a campaign that plays down her political party affiliation in a congressional district that Donald Trump won by 3 percentage points in 2020. Iowa Republicans have already made efforts to tether Mathis’s reputation to the national Democratic Party.

The Hinson campaign put out a statement calling Mathis the “handpicked new protégé” of Nancy Pelosi. Although the use of accent marks to show respect for the original French spelling of a now common English word is unusual for Republicans, the overall political ploy isn’t. Republicans have routinely denounced Democratic candidates as nothing more than pawns of Pelosi, since disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich devised the strategy in 2008.

Although Gingrich’s strategy has been effective against Democrats around the country who have no real connection to Pelosi over the last 13 years, it may be a tougher sell in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, where Mathis is already familiar to so many residents.

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