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Linn County Auditor Joel Miller launches campaign for Iowa Secretary of State
He paints Paul Pate as not demonstrating leadership
CEDAR RAPIDS — Citing a lack of leadership that he believes is eroding trust in Iowa’s election process, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller is running to be Secretary of State to “make voting easy, again.”
Miller, a Democrat who has overseen election services as auditor for 14 years, portrays incumbent Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate as “a master of figuring out which way the prevailing winds are blowing before he makes a decision.”
Coupled with Pate’s lack of leadership, Miller said, the election law changes enacted by the GOP-controlled Legislature is a “recipe for less engagement by the voting public,” which leads to “negative things that I think are easily avoided by just letting people have easy access to the ballot box.”
As secretary of state, Miller’s goals would be promoting “safe, secure voting with maximum participation.”
“And trying to make it easy as possible because I believe firmly that the more people we have engaged in the democratic process, the more accepting the public will be about the changes that are made by the leaders who are now elected to office,” he said. “I firmly believe that's how it's supposed to work. That's been how I've operated all this time.”
Since being elected in 2007, Miller has pursued “maximum participation” aggressively. To that end and to protect voters and election workers from COVID-19, he sent pre-filled absentee ballot request forms to Linn County voters ahead of the 2020 elections. He was sued by former President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and a judge ruled the ballots had to be tossed.
Miller, 66, has worked in management in both the public and private sectors, 12 years of management experience in the telecommunication industries, plus two years running his own business as well as serving as mayor and a city council members in Robins.
He was a Buchanan County deputy sheriff at 18, served three years active duty in the Army and about six years in the National Guard. He also was chairman of the Linn County Democratic Party.
“I've always wanted to do public service,” he said, adding that his passion for it came from his father, an Independence area dairy farmer who served on the school board and in the Iowa Legislature.
He’s had a series of disputes with Pate over the administration of elections, but insists his candidacy stems from the incumbent’s “total lack of leadership.”
“It’s not that I have anything personal against Paul Pate. I know Paul. I have been to social engagements with Paul and his wife,” Miller said.
He gives Pate credit for steps he took to increase election turnout, including sending voters absentee ballot request forms, “but it wasn’t his idea,” Miller said.
“He wasn't out there advocating. He basically got forced in to it,” Miller said. “That's not leadership.”
He believes the secretary of state should be someone who has experience running local elections.
Pate has “been the chief election administrator, but he's never actually run a local election, He has never walked in my shoes,” Miller said. “He doesn't seem to empathize with the challenges that I have, that 99 county auditors have in running elections.”
Pate, the former mayor of Cedar Rapids and owner of Pate Asphalt, is in his third term as secretary of state. A former state senator, he served from 1995 to1999, and then was elected again in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.
His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Miller will face competition for the Democratic nomination in the June 2022 primary. Clinton County Auditor Democrat Eric Van Lancker, who is in his fourth term, announced his campaign Wednesday.
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