- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Patty Judge opened her general election campaign Wednesday against one of the most-entrenched senators in Washington by making a trip to Washington herself - Washington, Iowa, that is.

One day after the former lieutenant governor defeated three other Democrats for the nomination, she met with local supporters there over lunch. Democratic activists say that kind of ground-level politics is the only way she can pull an upset against Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who ranks fourth in Senate seniority and hasn’t lost an election since his first run for the Iowa Legislature in 1958.

Judge, 72, has received more than $365,000 between May and her entry into the race in March, according to public records of campaign contributions. She has more than $235,000 available.

That pales in comparison to the $5 million Grassley has available. Judge’s campaign manager Sam Roecker said it’s hard to catch up to that much money but said the campaign has a plan in place to remain financially competitive.

Judge has argued for months she was the best suited in the Democratic primary race to take on Grassley because of her name recognition and experience. She faced a tougher-than-expected challenge from state Sen. Rob Hogg, who entered the race last year and had endorsements from most state Democratic lawmakers and two major labor groups.

Judge on Tuesday secured roughly 47 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, compared to about 38 percent for Hogg. He had raised less money than Judge but had gathered grassroots support on issues regarding the environment and water quality.

Linda Nelson, chair of Pottawattamie County Democrats in western Iowa, endorsed Hogg. Nelson said she will support Judge but is urging her to show more energy on the campaign trail to excite the Democratic base.

“Set up some listening posts and say, ‘I want to hear from you,’” Nelson recommended.

Bret Niles, chair of Linn County Democrats in eastern Iowa, didn’t formally endorse a candidate though he had a preference for Hogg, who represents the area. He said Judge needs to be clearer about her priorities as a candidate if she wants to defeat Grassley.

“She’s going to really need to step up her message and get out and make sure that people around the state really know what is at stake,” he said.

Judge was recruited by national Democrats who think Grassley, 82 may be vulnerable for refusing to hold confirmation hearings for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. He’s also received criticism for supporting GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. Both issues were the focus of Judge’s first online ad she’s reiterated through a campaign slogan that she’s “the Judge” that Grassley “can’t ignore.”

Republicans have criticized Trump’s claim that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel can’t preside fairly over a case involving Trump University because the judge is of Mexican heritage and Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Grassley said on Wednesday he “would disagree with Trump’s assessment in regard to that judge,” but he declined to make additional comments.

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