116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
JOHNSTON — U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer’s criticisms of a state judge whose ruling would have knocked her off the ballot were not appropriate, Iowa state auditor and fellow Democrat Rob Sand said Thursday.
Sand said he called Finkenauer at the time to convey his feelings.
Sand, a lawyer by trade who previously worked in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, said he is proud of the state court system and defended the judge who ruled against Finkenauer.
“That judge did his job,” Sand said Thursday for this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS. “He worked all weekend to get that report issued on a Sunday night in order to give whoever was going to be the losing party a chance to appeal. And it’s a well-respected judge.”
Iowa Republicans challenged some signatures on Finkenauer’s candidate paperwork, threatening her status on the ballot for Iowa’s 2022 elections. A state panel in a split vote ruled in Finkenauer’s favor, but Republicans appealed to the courts, and state judge Scott Beattie overturned the panel’s decision, effectively kicking Finkenauer off the ballot.
Finkenauer challenged the judge’s ruling, and the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously in her favor. The former congresswoman and state legislator from Cedar Rapids will remain on the ballot as one of three Democrats running in Iowa’s U.S. Senate campaign.
Before the Supreme Court reversed Beattie’s decision, Finkenauer called the lower court’s ruling “partisan,” “misguided,” “outrageous” and a “gift” to Republicans.
Republicans criticized Finkenauer’s comments at the time.
Sand said judges have political views, but that he believes Iowa’s court system prevents those views from impacting court rulings.
“Judges, they’re human beings. They have their political views,” Sand said. “But we have a very good system in Iowa that sorts out the people who want to go in there and be political. And so what we end up with is a body of judges who do a good job of applying the facts to the law.”
Sand said most people in the legal community agree with his views on Finkenauer’s comments. Sand also credited Finkenauer for pulling back on her criticism after he spoke to her.
“To Abby’s credit … when this was happening I called her and I told her how I felt about it. She and I have known each other for four years now. We have a pretty good relationship. I told her what I thought,” Sand said. “And to her credit, she said, ‘Thank you for this. We’re going to step back some of this and tone some of this down.’”
In a recent interview on WHO-TV in Des Moines, Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, when asked about Finkenauer’s criticism of the judge, said it was something she “probably … wouldn’t do.”
“I’m not going to presume how a judge made their decision since I’m not a judge and don’t have that legal background,” Axne said on WHO-TV. “I’m not going to wade into why Abby may have said one thing or another. I hope we can rely on our judges to do the right thing.”
The Finkenauer campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The other Democrats running for the U.S. Senate in Iowa are Mike Franken, a U.S. Navy veteran from Sioux City; and Glenn Hurst, a physician from Minden.
The Republican incumbent is longtime U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. He faces a primary challenge from Jim Carlin, a lawyer and state senator from Sioux City.
Iowa’s primary election is June 7.
“Iowa Press” can be seen at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday on Iowa PBS and online at iowapbs.org.
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