Iowa Candidate Filing Begins – Who’s First And What They Need

The three-week filing period for Iowa candidates to appear on the ballot for the June 5 primary date began today. It runs through March 16, and you can check online each day which new candidates running for the state legislature, Congress and statewide offices filed their paperwork at this link: Primary Candidate List. Of note: everyone files for and appears on the primary ballot even if they don’t face a competitive primary.

Most candidates wait until the final week to turn in their papers, but the first day always sees a group of people eager to be the first ones to file, even though it doesn’t have an impact on ballot order.

Republican Secretary of Agriculture candidate Craig Lang was the first and only statewide contender to file so far. Several Iowa House incumbents and candidates turned in their petitions today: Anna Bergman (Republican – HD 44), Tim Knutson (Democrat – HD 51), Representative Art Staed (Democrat – HD 66), Representative Dean Fisher (Republican – HD 72), Representative Mary Mascher (Democrat – HD 86), Travis Inghram (Republican – HD 87), Representative Gary Mohr (Republican – HD 94), Representative Lee Hein (Republican – HD 96) and Lindsay James (Democrat – HD 99).

It’s noteworthy to realize that all the candidates out there running campaigns aren’t officially on the ballot until they submit their petition sheets. And every election cycle, there’s always a couple people who have said they’re running for office, but don’t end up with enough signatures to make the ballot.

State legislative offices are pretty easy: only 50 signatures are required from an Iowa House district and 100 from an Iowa Senate district. Statewide candidates that aren’t the governor’s race need 1,000 signatures, with at least 50 each coming from 10 different counties. That can often get accomplished simply through party members handing around forms at the precinct caucuses, but it was trickier this year with so many candidates – caucus-goers may not have gone through a stack of two dozen petition sheets and signed each candidate’s.

The congressional and gubernatorial races are a bit more complicated. For Congress, you need a number of signatures that is both 1% of the total vote for a party’s presidential candidate in the previous cycle, and you also have to get 2% of that vote in a certain number of counties.

For example, in the 1st Congressional District, a Democrat needs to get 1,766 signatures overall, as well as a certain number from a minimum of 10 counties. Each county has its own requirement if you’re going to use it. Some of the counties with lower numbers include Allamakee (82 signatures), Poweshiek (99 signatures), Worth (50 signatures) and Delaware (114 signatures).

For even the easier counties like Worth, you probably can’t get all those simply from sending around your petitions at a single county party meeting. For these races, you often need to send a staffer or some local volunteers to collect signatures outside a grocery store or library or do a little bit of door-to-door work. And of course, you always want to get more than the minimum required, just in case.

Gubernatorial candidates must get 0.5% of the statewide vote for their party’s presidential candidate, and do 1% of that vote in 10 separate counties. So, a Democrat needs 3,269 signatures statewide, and then amounts like 20 signatures from Cass County, 28 signatures from Hamilton County or 56 signatures from Wapello County (or whatever set of 10 counties they choose to target).

All of that is very doable and doesn’t require an extensive field operation, but you do need to have a decent-sized volunteer group and a real focus to actually get it done. That doesn’t always happen with some of the less-serious candidates, especially in the congressional races where you do need to spend a few days hitting up specific counties to get your total. Heather Ryan, whose 3rd District campaign consisted mostly of odd Facebook videos, dropped down to primary a Democratic incumbent state legislator likely for this reason.

I predict that at least two candidates in some of the higher-profile races will not end up filing enough signatures to appear on the ballot. We’ll see come March 16.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 2/26/18

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