Iowa Supreme Court rules Democratic Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer will remain on primary ballot after GOP challenge

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  • The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Abby Finkenauer’s name will remain on the June Senate primary ballot.
  • The court disagreed that a handful of signatures without clear dates would disqualify Finkenauer.
  • Finkenauer, a former Democratic congresswoman, is running to challenge Chuck Grassley in November.

Iowa Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer’s name will appear on the June Democratic primary ballot, per a Friday ruling by the state’s Supreme Court which reversed a lower court decision that said she didn’t qualify for the race.

The ruling comes as a relief for Finkenauer — an ex-state lawmaker and former congresswoman — as she gears up for a general election race against Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has served in the upper chamber since 1981 and is running for reelection in a state that has trended conservative in recent election cycles.

On Sunday, a Polk County district court judge ruled that Finkenauer “shall not be included on the primary ballot for the Democratic Primary for US Senate” due to questions regarding submitted signatures from two counties. The Finkenauer campaign immediately appealed the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.

“We reverse the judgment of the district court and direct that the petition be dismissed,” the court said in its ruling.

The justices noted that Iowa election law — which included statutes on candidate qualifying ruled — does not explicitly state that missing dates were reasons why a signature should be tossed.

“The date of signing might assist in verifying the petition if the signer was only an eligible elector for part of the time period during which the petition was being circulated, but it is hard to see why it would matter in any other context,” the court said in the ruling.

The court added in its opinion: “Statutory interpretation is not like proving math theorems, and it is sometimes difficult to come up with a neat answer that is intellectually satisfying. In the end, we believe we must be guided by the legislature’s last word on the subject.”

Finkenauer in a Friday campaign call said that the challenge to the signatures — which was initiated by two Republicans — demonstrated that the GOP felt threatened by her candidacy.

“Today is a good day for Iowa and democracy,” the former congresswoman said. “The reality is with this unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court affirming that we met the requirements to be on the ballot for United States Senate that this is something, again, that is important not just for Democrats but for Republicans and independents and anybody who cares about the direction of our state and our country.”

She called the GOP effort “meritless partisan attacks” that were “orchestrated by Washington Republicans and allies of Senator Grassley” who sought to “silence Iowans and undermine the democratic process.”

The challenge came after two Republicans contended that Finkenauer had not met the state’s signature requirements, which were 3,500 signatures, including a minimum of 100 signatures from 19 different counties.

Finkenauer submitted 5,000 signatures to qualify for the race, but would not have met the 19 county-threshold with the three signatures that were previously in question.

With the June 7 primary only weeks away, Finkenauer remains the highest-profile Democratic Senate candidate running in a state that has sent Grassley to the Senate in seven successive elections.