HIAWATHA — Former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett will fight in court to get back on the ballot in hopes of continuing his Republican primary challenge against Gov. Kim Reynolds, he said Wednesday.
Corbett has filed an appeal in Polk County District Court challenging Tuesday’s 2-1 ruling by a three-member state panel that removed him from the June 5 primary ballot after finding he was eight signatures short of a petition requirement to qualify.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Corbett’s campaign sought to have the panel add in signatures the campaign had earlier crossed off the list.
“We are appealing all of the legal signatures including the crossed out names that should be counted in the total, and if they rule in our favor we will have enough signatures and be back on the ballot,” he said.
The ruling dropped Corbett to 3,997 signatures, just below the 4,005 requirement. His legal team has submitted about 70 names in the appeal that should be counted, he said.
Panel members Paul Pate, the Republican Secretary of State and former Cedar Rapids mayor, and Republican State Auditor Mary Mosiman ruled that the crossed-out signatures should not be counted in the total, and discarded other signatures where people’s counties or cities were misidentified.
State Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, voted in favor of Corbett remaining on the ballot — saying he did not want to make a decision that would remove a legitimate candidate from the ballot given the importance of the race.
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Corbett said if a judge rules against him, his campaign is over and he will not then run as an independent.
“If the judge rules against us, I will accept that ruling,” Corbett said. “But I want to see some clarity on this issue because I saw a lot of confusion yesterday among panel members, and when the only lawyer on the panel sided with us, I think we have a good case.”
While some have criticized Corbett and his campaign staff for failing to secure enough of a buffer to account for any signature discrepancies, Corbett laid the blame on the “establishment” in his own party, criticizing the “donor class, special interest and the establishment” behind Reynolds.
Corbett said he ran into obstacles on the campaign trail in getting signatures. For example, he said he was forbidden from collecting signatures at a GOP event in Council Bluffs where Vice President Mike Pence was speaking.
“I don’t think it would have mattered if I had 150 more, 500 more, 1,000 more, or 5,000 more,” Corbett said. “You see they’ve been out to get me since I announced. They would have found another tactic, if it wasn’t throwing me off the ballot, to knock my campaign.”
Corbett went into campaign mode during his news conference Wednesday at the Hiawatha Public Library, railing against Reynolds for “mismanaging the budget,” which he said has hurt K-12, higher education and health care. That’s why he is fighting to continue his campaign, he said.
After the panel ruled Tuesday, Reynolds issued a statement thanking Corbett for his “commitment and service to the people of Iowa” and calling for party unity.
When that unity was not forthcoming Wednesday, the Reynolds camp said when asked Wednesday that it was focused “on our own campaign.”
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“We’re proud of the support we’ve earned, including nearly 10,000 signatures from all 99 counties and over 4,000 county chairs,” said Pat Garrett, campaign spokesman. “We look forward to expanding this unprecedented grass roots support around the governor’s efforts to build a better Iowa.”
Corbett said he anticipates a ruling on his appeal sometime in the latter half of next week. If in his favor, that would give county auditors time to put him back on the ballot before early voting begins in late April, or 45 days before the primary.
Corbett said he is paying for the appeal, which he estimates will cost $8,000 to $12,000, out of his campaign contributions, of which he estimated he has $350,000 to $375,000 left.
Corbett said he was encouraged to appeal by legal experts, who contacted him with possible strategies, campaign supporters and key donors, who he said he had contacted for their permission to use campaign funds on legal fees.
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