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Linn County auditor may run for secretary of state in 2022

Joel Miller not optimistic about Democratic chances in statewide races

Auditor Joel Miller answers a question at an October 2012 Linn County Auditor Candidate Forum, sponsored by the League o
Auditor Joel Miller answers a question at an October 2012 Linn County Auditor Candidate Forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters Linn County, at the Kirkwood Training and Outreach Center, 3375 Amar Dr., Marion. Miller, in a blog post over the weekend, said he is exploring running for Iowa secretary of state. (The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Auditor Joel Miller has announced he is exploring a run for Iowa secretary of state.

In a blog post over the weekend, Miller wrote that he has created the “Miller for Iowa Secretary of State Exploratory Committee” in an effort to unseat Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Pate, a Republican, was re-elected in 2018, after gaining the seat for a second time in 2014. He held the office from 1995 to 1999.

Miller, a Democrat, told The Gazette on Monday he decided to explore a possible campaign because, he said, Iowa needs a secretary of state “who is focused on making voting easier while ensuring the integrity of elections.”

“The voters need an advocate to keep voting simple and make voting simpler,” Miller said. “I know I’m not the only county auditor that feels that way, but getting a county auditor to leave their comfort zone to run for statewide office may be a bridge too far if the Democratic Party cannot broaden their appeal in rural Iowa.

“If no one steps forward, then maybe I’ll run if it feels right. For now, I’m exploring.”

In his blog post, Miller said, the purpose of his exploratory committee “is to recruit a current or former county auditor to run for secretary of state in 2022 or to run for secretary of state myself.

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“Frankly, I don’t know if anyone other than a Republican can win another statewide office in Iowa. Is there another Tom Miller, Michael Fitzgerald or Rob Sand out there?” he wrote, referring to the Democratic attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor, respectively.

Miller told The Gazette he is skeptical Iowa Democrats can win more elections in 2022 than they did in 2020.

“In 2020, Democrats running for the Legislature did poorly and lost ground,” he said. “It’s clear to me that the Iowa Democratic Party’s message in 2020 did not produce results. I have my doubts that the Democratic Party can turn things around in time to win in 2022.”

Miller added that if he does run for the statewide office, he will transfer funds raised by the exploratory committee into his campaign account. If he doesn’t run, he said he will transfer the funds to the Iowa Democratic Party.

“I’m not going to self-fund my campaign,” Miller said on Monday. “Mike Bloomberg tried that and lost. I need lots of donations from a variety of people. I need accurate data to determine whether the people of Iowa are satisfied with the status quo, the incumbent, or whoever becomes the Republican candidate. Or do they want a Democrat in the office of secretary of state?”

Pate, a state senator from 1989 to 1995 and mayor of Cedar Rapids from 2002 to 2006, and Miller, Linn County’s auditor since 2007, have had public feuds in the past.

The latest was last summer when Pate blocked Miller and other Iowa county auditors from mailing absentee ballot request forms to registered voters with partial voter information already filled in.

In August, a judge ruled in favor of a GOP lawsuit about the absentee ballot request forms mailed by Miller, effectively invalidating around 50,000 of them.

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Additionally, Miller set up ballot drop boxes at grocery stores, which Pate said were illegal. Ultimately, Miller was allowed to set up ballot drop boxes on county property only.

To date, no one has announced they will run for Iowa secretary of state in 2022.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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