DES MOINES, Iowa – The State Objection Panel on Tuesday ruled to keep Attorney General Tom Miller and former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer on the Democratic primary ballot after several of their nomination petition signatures were challenged.
The State Objection Panel consists of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, State Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, and Miller. Miller had to recuse himself from the panel for the hearing to the objections to his nomination petition signatures and was replaced by Lt. Governor Adam Gregg, a Republican.
Miller seeks his 11th term and has served as Attorney General of Iowa since 1978, except for one term after unsuccessfully running for governor.
Elections for state executive offices, excluding governor and lt. governor, require 2500 signatures, including 77 signatures from at least 18 counties.
The complaint filed for Miller’s nomination signatures was that the Attorney General did not meet the 77 signatures from 18 counties threshold after challenging specific signatures.
In particular, there were challenges to petition signatures for including incorrect dates, not including a unit number in addresses that primarily impacted college students at Iowa State University and Simpson College living in dorms. In addition, on the nomination petition signature form, some students listed a P.O. Box, not their physical address.
Sand argued that the incorrect dates should be considered a scrivener’s error and should be counted. Gregg and Pate disagreed. They also disagreed with voters signing who lived in multiunit residences but did not give a unit number. Sand said that the state code and the nomination petition form do not mention it, so he voted to deny the objection while Gregg and Pate voted to uphold it.
In the end, Miller still had 18 counties with at least 77 signatures, only having one more than needed in Story County after other signatures were ruled not to count.
“All’s well that ends well. I think they made the right decision and they made it across party lines, which you have to give them a lot of credit for,” Miller said after the panel’s hearing.
He rejoined the panel to hear the objection to Finkenauer’s ballots. Finkenauer, a former one-term member of Congress, seeks the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in a three-way primary race.
Those running for the U.S. Senate must collect 3,500 signatures, including at least 100 in 19 counties.
Alan Ostergren, an attorney who represented the complainant in Miller’s hearing and, for Finkenauer’s hearing, argued that he should recuse himself. Miller said he would vote in a way that was consistent with how he and the panel had decided other complaints.
Similar complaints were made, and in the case of incorrect dates and not listing a unit number, the panel voted 2 to 1 to reject the challenge, with Miller joining Sand, leaving Pate as the sole vote to uphold the challenge on those grounds.
In the end, Finkenauer still met the county threshold by having at least 100 signatures in 19 counties; she started with 20.
State Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham, running in the new Iowa House District 87, survived an objection to his signatures. Those running for the Iowa House must submit 50 signatures; Shipley submitted just 52 signatures. The panel rejected two signatures, and he still barely met the threshold.
The panel also heard challenges to the candidacies based on residency requirements.
Anthony LaBruna, a Republican running in Iowa Senate District 3, had a complaint accusing him of not meeting the requirement that a candidate establishes a residence in Iowa at least one year before running for office. LaBruna had worked in Utah, Florida, and the District of Columbia but maintained an Iowa residence since 2016. He demonstrated that he had voted in Iowa in 2020 and submitted a W-2 with his Iowa address.
The panel voted unanimously to reject the complaint.
Complaints were also submitted and dismissed against State Senators Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, stating they did not live in the Senate districts they were running in.
Whitver announced he was moving to run in the newly drawn Iowa Senate District 23. Rozenboom initially indicated he would resign from the Iowa Senate to avoid a primary with State Senator Adrian Dickey, R-Packwood, in the new Iowa Senate District 44. However, he instead filed for re-election in the newly drawn Iowa Senate District 19, a neighboring district that did not have an incumbent.
The panel unanimously voted to dismiss the complaints since state law only requires someone to have a residence in the district within 60 days of the general election.
The panel upheld a challenge to Kyle Kuehl’s petition signatures. Kuehl filed in the new Iowa 1st Congressional District to challenge U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in the Republican primary. They upheld the nomination since Kuehl had withdrawn from the race and was not present to defend against the objection to his nomination petition signatures.
“Iowa and America are better because young, dynamic individuals like Kyle are stepping up to run for office. As a 24-year U.S. Army veteran, I respect Kyle’s military service and the sacrifices he made to protect our country from those who try to attack freedom,” Miller-Meeks said in a released statement. “As a former small business owner, I admire his entrepreneurial spirit. And as a fellow conservative, I know we share the same values and principles, including defending the right to life, reducing federal spending and the size of the federal government, and improving services for the military personnel and veterans who have fought and sacrificed to defend our freedom.”
“Kyle and I share a deep love for our state; together we can help our party achieve victories up and down the ballot. My team and I also wish him the absolute best and look forward to what comes next for Kyle,” she added.
A challenge to former Admiral Mike Franker’s nomination petition signatures was filed, but later withdrawn. Along with Finkenauer, he also seeks the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in November.