DES MOINES — Former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s 280-day campaign to become governor ended abruptly Tuesday when a state panel ruled he was eight signatures shy of the petition requirement to be listed on the ballot.
The 2-1 decision means Gov. Kim Reynolds will not be forced into a June 5 Republican primary after all, and will not be tested at the ballot box until she faces the Democratic nominee Nov. 6.
At the final tally, the panel concluded, Corbett had 3,997 verified signatures on the petition he submitted just before the March 16 deadline. But he needed at least 4,005.
Corbett, who appeared with legal counsel at the hearing to consider objections to candidates for state and federal offices, said he would not challenge the decision, although he decried it.
He criticized the actions of “the governor’s people” in vanquishing his challenge before any votes were cast.
“To do this shenanigans and try to get us kicked off really, I think, is in poor taste,” he said. “But it is what it is, and she won’t have a primary challenge.”
As a seasoned candidate, Corbett would have been well-versed in the need for petitions showing the required number of valid signatures to quality for office.
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He served two terms as mayor of Cedar Rapids, and before that served as speaker of the Iowa House. In addition, in 2004 while serving as president of the Greater Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce, he led the organization’s efforts to gather enough signatures to force a decision on reducing the City Council from full-time to part-time status.
But the drama leading to him being booted from the ballot this time began when he submitted 4,091 signatures — only 86 more than the minimum.
A challenge brought by conservative blogger Craig Robinson raised questions about 108 of those signatures.
Robinson is not a member of the governor’s official office or campaign staff, nor has he donated to Reynolds’ campaign, according to state campaign finance records. However, he recently told the Des Moines Register he “probably” would vote for Reynolds.
The panel, made up of Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate, Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller and Republican Auditor Mary Mosiman, ruled on the contested — many of them duplicates — signatures.
The panel approved some signatures that included post office boxes instead of street addresses, incomplete street addresses or no county of residence identified. But the panel also rejected some signatures that misidentified the county or city of residence.
The panel also rejected the Corbett campaign’s bid to count signatures now that contained accurate residence information but that the campaign had before the deadline mistakenly crossed off, apparently believing some of the information inaccurate.
“We made a mistake in correcting something that never needed correcting,” said Patrick Sealey, a Sioux City lawyer representing Corbett’s campaign. “The only thing that’s not accurate is our mistake in crossing off something that was accurate.”
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There were eight such signatures — exactly the number of signatures of which Corbett fell shy.
Pate and Mosiman voted to reject the Corbett campaign’s petition. Miller voted to accept it, citing the high profile of the governor’s race and his apprehension at delivering a ruling that would take what he called a legitimate candidate off the ballot.
Reynolds issued a statement through her campaign Tuesday evening.
“I want to thank Ron Corbett for his commitment and service to the people of Iowa,” Reynolds said in the statement. “Now is the time for the Republican Party to unite, and I look forward to leading our team to victory up and down the ballot this November.”
Corbett decided not to run for a third term for mayor and instead announced his candidacy for governor on June 20, 2017, outside the NewBo City Market. He later recorded a television commercial, embarked on a tour of Iowa’s community colleges to stress education and raised nearly $845,000 for the race, according to his last campaign disclosure in January. At that time, he still had nearly $579,000 left to spend.
Among its other actions, the panel:
l Rejected the petition of Ginny Caligiuri, who was a Republican candidate in Eastern Iowa’s 2nd U.S. House District. Her signatures were contested by the campaign of fellow Republican candidate Chris Peters. Duplicates dropped the number of signatures below a required threshold in one county in the district, and the Caligiuri campaign’s pleas to allow signatures from a different county were rejected. Peters is now the lone Republican in the race against Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack.
l Rejected a challenge to the nominating signatures for Theresa Greenfield, a Democratic candidate in Central Iowa’s 3rd U.S. House District. The panel determined the challenge was not applicable. Greenfield withdrew her original ballot petition after discovering some of the signatures were forged by her then-campaign manager She hurriedly submitted a second ballot petition, but that did not have enough signatures. Members of the 3rd District Democrats’ central committee voted Monday to nominate Greenfield to the ballot. Pate has said he has not yet determined whether to approve the nomination.