DES MOINES – US Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer will appear on the June Democratic primary ballotthe Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday, reversing a district court decision that found Finkenauer failed to qualify.
The ruling ends a tense week for Finkenauer, a former US representative who is vying for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican US Sen. Chuck Grassley.
On Sunday, a district court judge ruled Finkenauer failed to qualify for the primary ballot Because of three signatures submitted as part of her nominating petitions that lacked a correct date.
Supreme Court overturned that lower court decision Friday, allowing Finkenauer to appear on the ballot.
More:Iowa Supreme Court weighs whether US Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer can appear on primary ballot
One signature had an incorrect date. Another had no date. And with the third, the signer wrote their ZIP code, rather than the date.
The Iowa Supreme Court agreed with attorneys for Finkenauer’s campaign that because the law lists some reasons that signatures cannot be counted — but does not list a missing or incorrect date among those reasons — the signatures should be allowed to count.
US Senate candidates were required to submit a total of 3,500 signatures, including at least 100 signatures from 19 different counties. Finkenauer submitted about 5,000 signatures overall, but without the three disputed signatures she would have failed to meet the 19-county requirement.
“Statutory interpretation is not like proving math theorems, and it is sometimes difficult to come up with a neat answer that is intellectually satisfying,” the court wrote in its opinion. “In the end, we believe we must be guided by the legislature’s last word on the subject.”
A Pair of Republicans brought the challenge against Finkenauer: Kim Schmett, a former chair of the Polk County Republicans, and Leanne Pellett, co-chair of the Cass County Republicans.
Finkenauer is seen as the front-runner in the three-candidate Democratic primary for the US Senate race. She is competing against mike frankena retired Navy admiral, and glen hurst, a doctor and Minden city council member. Finkenauer has led in fundraising and secured a range of endorsements.
Still, if she prevails in the primary, she’ll face steep odds against Grassley, who is seen as likely to win an eighth term in office. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll in September found Grassley led Finkenauer 55% to 37% among likely voters in a hypothetical matchup.
The court’s decision comes ahead of a tight deadline for election administrators to begin printing ballots so they can be mailed to overseas and military voters, who must be sent their ballots by April 23 under federal law.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism