Telegraph Herald: Our opinion: Despite issues, Blum still best for 1st District

“Aside from their Dubuque origins and the congressional seat they hope to win Nov. 6, Rod Blum and Abby Finkenauer have little in common. The leading candidates for U.S. House from Iowa’s 1st District differ in age, gender, income bracket, experiences, political philosophy — and even the length of last name.

All those differences — well, hopefully not the name part — might make the decision easy for many northeast Iowa voters. However, for the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board, the choice was not so clear-cut. Each has strengths and weaknesses.

In the end, our endorsement decision came down to an assessment of who has done the most for his or her constituents in the past and who is best prepared and positioned to do so in the future. In our view, that is the incumbent Republican, Blum.

Blum, who grew up under modest circumstances and became a successful and wealthy business owner, campaigned to take his conservative values and real-life experience to Congress — a place, he said, desperately needing change. After failing to secure the GOP nomination in 2012, Blum in 2014 won the open seat, nipping Dubuque Democrat Pat Murphy. He was re-elected two years ago by an eight-point margin.

He often falls in line with Republican leaders, including President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, on major issues. That includes this year’s massive tax cuts, which appear to be delivering short-term gain but portend future pain from the growing budget deficit — the same deficit Blum decried just a few years ago as a candidate.

But Blum also engages in some bipartisan initiatives. While some of his efforts are effectively symbolic — don’t hold your breath for lawmakers to cut their own pay, eschew first-class airline accommodations or term-limit themselves – he is due some credit for being a thorn in Washington’s side by calling attention to government waste and excess.

Where he clearly deserves credit — shared with Iowa’s Republican senators, Chuck Grassley and especially Joni Ernst — is for the hard work in clearing bureaucratic obstacles toward securing some $117 million toward a much-needed floodwall for Cedar Rapids, which suffered a devastating flood in 2008 and other high-water crises since. His work for veterans and seniors has been solid, and he was key for preserving Historic Tax Credits, a program incredibly beneficial to Dubuque’s renaissance.

Midterm elections are usually seen as referendums on whoever occupies the White House, and Blum, who has supported Trump at virtually every turn, can expect to win or lose some votes according to constituents’ opinion on the president’s performance.

Voters desiring reasons to oppose Blum’s re-election don’t have to look hard for issues, some of which are self-inflicted.

Tin Moon Corp., the small startup company of which Blum is a founder and majority owner, has cost him political capital. While he tries to confine the discussion to what he describes as a clerical oversight — failure to list Tin Moon among his many ventures and investments — concerns go far beyond official paperwork.

Even if he isn’t involved in Tin Moon’s day-to-day operation, how is it that a federal lawmaker co-owns a “reputation management” business that offers to obscure from citizens’ web searches official warning letters from the federal Food and Drug Administration? How does that serve the public’s interest? There are more tentacles to the Tin Moon episode, but suffice it to say that it reflects poorly on the congressman and people working with and for him. His reactions to reporting and commentary on Tin Moon and other flare-ups — he plays the aggrieved victim of the media — indicate that he could do with a thicker layer of skin and greater willingness to tell his side of the story.

With that said, Blum’s experience and success, even with some controversy, stand in positive contrast with that of Finkenauer, who has aspired to a career in politics since her teenage years when she was a page for then-congressman Jim Nussle. With limited and temporary exception, she has no work experience outside government. Finkenauer on the campaign trail bemoans that she is struggling to pay off her student loans. We don’t doubt that — many people in their 20s still do — but we also note that her only job is Iowa legislator, a part-time position that pays $25,000 per year. That does make it hard to pay the bills.

Yet Finkenauer, who turns 30 before the swearing-in of the next Congress, has proven herself in campaigns. She defeated older opponents in the 2014 Democratic primary and general election for Iowa House and this year trounced three primary contenders to win the Democratic nomination to run against Blum.

Personable and bright, though she relies too heavily on well-rehearsed talking points, Finkenauer could be an up-and-comer in Congress someday. While we don’t consider her ready for that step yet, polls suggest her opportunity might come sooner than later.

Still, her strongest selling point in 2018 seems to be that she is not Rod Blum — and not of Donald Trump’s party.

In our view, that’s not enough. Despite some of his missteps, the candidate who can best represent the 1st District the next two years is incumbent Rod Blum.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.”

Full article here.