The state’s three-person elections commission met this afternoon in a lengthy hearing to consider eight objections to various candidates’ ballot petitions. It was the most challenges anyone could remember there being in a single year, and it included several major candidates like Kim Reynolds, David Young and Steve King. They also addressed the major situations with Ron Corbett, Ginny Caligiuri and Theresa Greenfield.

The election commission is made up of Secretary of State Paul Pate, Attorney General Tom Miller and State Auditor Mary Mosiman.

Their decisions caused major shake-ups in Iowa politics, knocking off Kim Reynolds’ only primary challenger – Ron Corbett – and a major congressional candidate – Ginny Caligiuri. Corbett came just eight signatures short of the minimum requirement. But they also decided they have no jurisdiction in the matter of Greenfield’s situation.

Perennial candidate Bryan Jack Holder made objections to how both Kim Reynolds and David Young altered the official form. The campaigns distributed forms that also included fields for emails and phone numbers, as well as adding campaign or official logos.

However, both Reynolds and Young’s representatives at the meeting provided email documents that showed they had asked the Secretary of State’s office if it was okay to use these altered forms and were told it was. The challenges were dismissed.

Steve King’s Republican primary challenger Cyndi Hanson questioned whether King wrote out the county names at the top of their petitions after people had signed them, which is not allowed. But there was no way to actually tell if that happened. And King’s representatives provided evidence that hand-writing county names on petitions is a common practice. They even showed petitions done by Pate, Miller and Mosiman that did the same. The challenge was dismissed.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Ginny Caligiuri’s petitions were challenged by Chris Peters, her opponent in the primary. They alleged that Caligiuri had several invalid signatures in Washington County – either duplicates or addresses outside the county – which would cause her to fall short of the required minimum there and from the minimum number of counties.

A representative for Caligiuri’s campaign argued that the Secretary of State’s office should have returned any problems to the candidate before the end of the filing period. They also admitted they made some mistakes, but requested “mercy” from the commission, saying the commission often errs in favor of ballot access. It was not a very convincing defense, and the elections commission voted to accept the challenge and block Caligiuri from the ballot. Her campaign vowed to pursue a legal challenge, but the prospects didn’t look good.

Caligiuri will not appear on the Republican primary ballot, meaning Chris Peters will face off again with Congressman Dave Loebsack. That’s good news for Democrats – Peters lost to Loebsack 46% to 54% in the Republican wave year. Republicans had hoped that Caligiuri would be a competitive challenger to Loebsack that could at least force Loebsack to spend money in his own district instead of helping out other Democrats around the state.

Another challenge was raised in House District 56 (Allamakee and Clayton county). Republicans were upset that Dale Bolsinger collected signatures to file as a Republican in the district, saying he was a registered Democrat at the time. The incumbent Republican in this Northeast Iowa swing district is retiring, yet Republicans did not find a candidate yet before the filing deadline. They argued it was an underhanded attempt by Democrats to fill the Republican slot for the ballot. The commission accepted the challenge on the basis that Bolsinger didn’t change his party registration until after he collected the petitions.

In a lengthy proceeding, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Corbett’s petitions were challenged by conservative writer and political consultant Craig Robinson. It was alleged that Corbett’s petitions had too many duplicates and invalid signatures through various means – either wrong addresses in different counties or improper ditto marks.

Corbett’s team attempted to get a host of possibly-rejected signatures accepted. Some were ones that their campaign crossed out because they thought they were duplicates or not in the correct county. They also tried to get other pages that were denied for various clerical reasons accepted. Some were allowed, which got him close to the minimum number required, but it was not enough.

The commission did not allow Corbett to get legitimate signatures they mistakenly crossed out counted. That kept Corbett to 3,997 signatures, just eight short of the 4,005 necessary for the statewide ballot. Both Mosiman and Pate voted to not allow Corbett on the ballot; Miller voted to put him on.

Finally, Greenfield’s case was heard. But Robinson was essentially challenging her second petition forms, which fell short of the required number anyway. There was never a question over whether or not her second list of signatures could get her onto the ballot. So, that was rejected out of hand.

The commission spoke some about the Iowa Code that Greenfield is attempting to use to get onto the ballot, but they also decided that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to decide on that. Pate made it clear that he was annoyed that Miller hadn’t issued a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s office on the matter yet.

This all means that Greenfield is still on track to make the ballot.

The next step, however, is Pate himself. He must decide whether to certify her nomination from the 3rd District Democrats committee by 5:00 P.M. tomorrow. If he does not certify her, Greenfield will likely sue over the decision. If Pate does certify her, someone else may make a legal challenge to that. Either way, it’s likely Greenfield still faces one or two more hurdles to overcome.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 3/27/18

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