A former Iowa Democratic congresswoman who was the run-away favorite to be the party's Senate candidate this November was booted from the ballot late Sunday night by an Iowa judge because she failed to gather the required number of signatures.
Abby Finkenauer failed to collect the required number of signatures to appear on the primary ballot, the judge declared after disqualifying several that were improperly collected. Finkenauer had submitted just enough signatures to qualify for the primary—Iowa law requires candidates to have at least 100 signatures in 19 of the state's counties to make the ballot—but Republicans said several of the collected signatures were invalid, bringing her below the threshold.
The Republicans only challenged three signatures in two counties, which had either no date listed or an incoherent date listed, voiding the signatures and taking Finkenauer under the required threshold of 100. The judge agreed with them, throwing the Democrats' Senate plans into turmoil.
"The Court takes no joy in this conclusion," Polk County district judge Scott Beattie wrote. "However, this Court’s job is to sit as a referee and apply the law without passion or prejudice. It is required to rule without consideration of the politics of the day."
In a Monday morning statement, Finkenauer insisted that the signatures her campaign collected qualified her to be on the ballot, calling the court's decision "an outrageous and partisan gift" to Republicans. She also committed to challenging the ruling.
"We are confident that we have met the requirements to be on the ballot," Finkenauer said. "We are exploring all of our options to fight back hard against this meritless partisan attack."
Finkenauer was elected to the House in 2018 but lost her reelection bid two years later. She was tapped by party leadership to run statewide this year in a long-shot bid to unseat longtime Republican senator Chuck Grassley. Iowa Democrats are now likely to nominate Mike Franken, who ran for Senate in 2020 but was crushed in the primary.
Judge Beattie's ruling overturned a decision by a state election panel last month, when her signatures were ruled to be valid. Republicans said the State Objection Panel, a three-person panel comprising two Democrats and one Republican, improperly voted to include three undated signatures.
The question of Finkenauer's eligibility is expected to head to the Iowa Supreme Court, which will have to expedite the case due to urgency to get ballots printed and sent to military and overseas voters in the coming days.
Grassley’s campaign told the Washington Free Beacon that Finkenauer's failure to gather sufficient signatures shows that she "took the nomination process for granted and did not work to adequately earn the support of Iowans." Matt Dailer, Grassley’s campaign manager, said their campaign collected "triple" the number of required signatures to make sure it had no problem.
"We went to all 99 counties and collected nearly triple the required amount of signatures from Iowans who believe the senator we need is the senator we've got," Dailer said. "Abby Finkenauer only served one term in Congress before getting kicked out of office. She ought to appreciate how much voter support matters to win."