Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Franken is entering the race to challenge Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyTrump calls into Take Back Virginia Rally to hype Youngkin The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations – Dems debate scaled-back Biden agenda What’s at stake if Trump wins in 2024? Single-party authoritarian rule MORE (R) in Iowa, teeing up what is expected to be a competitive Democratic primary against former Rep. Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerTrump says Grassley has his ‘complete and total endorsement’ Grassley announces reelection bid The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE (D-Iowa.).
Despite never having held elected office, Franken enters the race having already run a statewide campaign. He sought the Democratic nomination last year to challenge Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog Senate GOP seeks bipartisan panel to investigate Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-Iowa). Though he ultimately finished second to Theresa Greenfield, he gained notable traction and name recognition — something that could come in handy in his latest bid.
In announcing his Senate campaign on Thursday, Franken released a list of 20 endorsements from current and former elected officials and party activists. While he’ll first have to make it through the primary, Franken focused his announcement on the 88-year-old Grassley, who confirmed last month that he would run for an eighth term in the Senate.
“Senator Grassley has served Iowans in some form for seven decades,” Franken said. “Make no mistake, Senator Grassley is an entrenched, career politician who has fomented Donald Trump’s Big Lie.”
“Grassley did the Republican Party’s dirty work by using his power to obstruct the judicial process multiple times. He has long since morphed into something other than the folksy farmer Iowans sent to Washington 46 years ago.”
While Finkenauer jumped into the Iowa Senate race in July, Democrats in Iowa and Washington have repeatedly mentioned Franken as a potential contender.
Sean Bagniewski, the chair of the Democratic Party in Polk County, which includes Des Moines, told The Hill earlier this year that he expected stiff competition between Finkenauer and Franken, if Franken were to enter the race.
“I think a lot of us expect a lot of the attention and a lot of the competition to be happening between [Finkenauer] and Admiral Franken,” he said, noting that “Franken has run a statewide campaign before.”
Three other candidates, former state Rep. Bob Krause, Minden City Council member Glenn Hurst and former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer, are also seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Grassley in 2022.
Still, Grassley won’t be easy to beat. He’s been a fixture of Iowa politics for decades and has universal name recognition in the state. He also boasts a $2.5 million warchest, according to his campaign finance filings from July.
At the same time, Republicans have had a good run in Iowa in recent years. Former President TrumpDonald TrumpTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Trump calls into Take Back Virginia Rally to hype Youngkin Overnight Defense & National Security — Partisan extremism poses ‘growing problem’ among veterans MORE carried the state in both 2016 and 2020, and the GOP flipped two of its four House seats last year, including the one previously held by Finkenauer.