Staff Columnist

Corbett tackled but tries to play on

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (left) and Attorney General Tom Miller look at petition signatures for Ron Corbett, Republican candidate for Governor, Tuesday, March 27, 2018, as a state panel hears challenges to eight candidates ballot petitions at the Iowa State Capital in Des Moines.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (left) and Attorney General Tom Miller look at petition signatures for Ron Corbett, Republican candidate for Governor, Tuesday, March 27, 2018, as a state panel hears challenges to eight candidates ballot petitions at the Iowa State Capital in Des Moines.

It’s been almost a year since Ron Corbett introduced himself to Iowans through his book “Beyond Promises.”

But if he pens a sequel, it might be titled “Beyond Explanation.” Or maybe “Beyond Belief.” How about “BeyondAll Appeals?”

In any event, it will be the story of a former Iowa House speaker and mayor of Cedar Rapids who spent more than a year laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial campaign. After launching that candidacy, he crisscrossed Iowa for nine months.

But when it came time for his campaign to turn in its all-important candidacy petitions, it barely beat the deadline. It narrowly cleared the number of signatures needed. Inevitably, allies of his opponent, Gov. Kim Reynolds, challenged his filing, finding duplicates and other problems.

When the dust settled Tuesday, he fell eight signatures short. A campaign promising “A New Game Plan for Iowa” fumbled at the goal line.

Corbett says the powerful GOP “establishment” targeted his effort. But he acknowledged Tuesday night the bottom-line blame can be “thrown at my feet.” Rules are rules. Knowing such a challenge was inevitable, why didn’t his campaign bolster its signature count far beyond the 4,005 needed? How could a savvy political veteran leave himself vulnerable to disaster?

“That’s the eight-signature question that’s going to haunt me for a long time,” he said.

But on Wednesday, Corbett said he’s still in the race, courtesy of a newly filed Polk County District Court appeal to the state review board’s decision. The old running back is challenging the ruling on the field, hoping for a better call on 70 or so signatures he believes should count.

“If the judge rules against us, I will accept that ruling,” Corbett said Wednesday.

Just as he told to me a day earlier, Corbett added he doesn’t relish the prospect of standing before a judge, that he’d “rather be standing on a debate stage,” arguing about the future of Iowa.

I know, barring a tectonic shift, Corbett is not going to beat Reynolds. But that doesn’t mean we won’t lose something if he’s truly bounced.

In an era of blind tribal allegiance, Corbett has stood up and called out his party for rushed, shortsighted and top-down governing — gutting collective bargaining for public employees and privatizing Medicaid with remarkably little regard for the consequences they spawned. He called for a renewed commitment to public education. He had a tax cut plan that also addressed our water quality “crisis.”

He is a throwback candidate, running on issues and ideas, preaching the need for inclusive political processes and compromises that build lasting achievements.

If Corbett’s challenge to the challenge falls short, Reynolds soon will be free to fully pursue the Branstadian re-election playbook, campaigning on corn syrup platitudes and sketchy plans while railing plenty on “unhinged” liberals. The real agenda will be revealed only after the votes are in the bank. Democrats haven’t cracked that code.

I asked Corbett if he’d consider an independent run. He didn’t seem enthused, and publicly declined the gambit as his news conference, without mentioning how many signatures would be needed.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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