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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and U.S. Senate hopeful Abby Finkenauer — both Democrats — will be on the ballot when Iowans cast votes later this year after both survived challenges Tuesday to their candidate filing paperwork.
Miller, the state attorney general seeking re-election in November, and Finkenauer, a challenger in a primary for an Iowa U.S. Senate seat, both wound up with just enough qualifying signatures on their candidate filing forms after review by the three-member State Objection Panel.
Challenges to Miller’s and Finkenauer’s signatures, brought by registered Republican voters in Iowa, dealt mostly with incomplete addresses and incomplete, incorrect or difficult to read dates.
Candidates for public office in Iowa must obtain a required number of signatures from the public to get on the ballot. That number varies depending on the office sought.
As a candidate for re-election as state attorney general, Miller was required to obtain at least 77 signatures in at least 18 counties. After the panel reviewed his campaign’s signatures, Miller squeaked by the minimum requirements: He finished with 18 qualifying counties, one of which had 78 signatures.
“Admittedly, it was pretty close,” Miller said.
Had the panel disqualified Miller, the Democratic Party could have, and likely would have, voted to reinstate him to the ballot. If a party does not have a candidate in any race after the early filing period, it can nominate a candidate at the party’s convention.
The same safety net was not in place for Finkenauer, since two other Democratic candidates have qualified for the ballot in the primary for the U.S. Senate currently held by Chuck Grassley.
As a Senate candidate, Finkenauer needed to acquire at least 100 signatures from 19 counties. After the panel’s review, she finished with 19 qualifying counties, including one with exactly 100 signatures and two more with 101.
An objection to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Franken’s paperwork was dropped late Monday. The third candidate in that primary is Glenn Hurst.
The State Objection Panel is comprised of the state’s secretary of state, attorney general and auditor. So for most of Tuesday’s deliberations, the panel was comprised of Miller, Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate and Democratic Auditor Rob Sand.
For Miller’s challenge, however, he was replaced on the panel by Republican Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.
With that difference in political makeup, the panel voted two different ways on the same sets of issues. The Democrats, Sand and Miller, voted to forgive signatures that had minor clerical errors, noting the panel historically has erred on the side of ballot access. The Republicans, Pate and Gregg, voted to reject those signatures, arguing they did not meet the letter of the law.
While the panel unanimously rejected the challenge to Miller’s forms, it voted 2-1 to reject Finkenauer’s, with Pate voting to accept the challenge and take Finkenauer off the ballot.
Alan Ostergren, a conservative lawyer who argued on behalf of many of the challenges, said some of the petitioners now may contest some of the panel’s rulings in court.
“We had a different standard applied this morning than was applied this afternoon. That’s not right,” Ostergren said.
The panel also unanimously rejected challenges to candidate filing forms for four Republicans — state Sens. Jack Whitver and Ken Rozenboom, state Senate candidate Anthony LaBruna and state Rep. Jeff Shipley, keeping them all on the ballot.
The challenges to Whitver’s and Rozenboom’s forms centered on their residency as they prepare to run in new Iowa Senate districts. State law says a candidate needs to live in the district by 60 days before the general election, which this year is Nov. 8.
Whitver, the Senate majority leader, currently lives in Ankeny but plans to move into a new Senate district in rural, northern Polk County to run for re-election.
The panel upheld only one challenge, to the nominating forms of Kyle Kuehl, a Republican candidate for U.S. House in Eastern Iowa’s new 1st District. But Kuehl late Monday notified the Secretary of State’s office of his intention to withdraw from the race, and not contest the challenges to his filing paperwork.
That leaves incumbent U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the only Republican running in that race.
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