Iowa Dem dumped from Senate ballot over rookie mistake

Iowa Dem dumped from Senate ballot over rookie mistake
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

It doesn’t seem as if this story will have much of an impact on the red wave theory, but it may prove to be a useful lesson for anyone out there who is considering a run for public office. The incident in question involves 33-year-old Abby Finkenauer, a former Democratic congresswoman who served one term representing Iowa’s 1st Congressional District before losing her seat in the 2020 election. Her party tapped her to run for the Senate this year and she was seen as the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. But that plan came crashing to a halt on Sunday night, at least for now. A judge found that Finkenauer’s campaign had failed to submit the required number of valid signatures to qualify for a line on the ballot. And her opponent barely had to lift a finger to succeed in challenging her eligibility. (Free Beacon)

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…

“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.”

This was a case of simple ignorance of how the game is played. Iowa’s signature requirements for congressional campaigns are so low as to almost be laughable compared to many other states. You only need to obtain 100 signatures in each of 19 counties to qualify. Even a small team of volunteers with a car and some gas money should be able to grab 100 signatures in a single town in one afternoon of door-knocking. You could cover all of the counties in a couple of weeks at most.

The general rule of thumb is that you submit at least twice the number of required signatures, and it shouldn’t be that hard to do if you have even a modest amount of support. The reason for that is that any even modestly competent campaign will always challenge your signatures and look for any entries with errors that may somehow prove disqualifying. And since most of the signature-gathering is done by volunteers, mistakes happen and there will always be a few clunkers in there. Finkenauer had already run one successful campaign and she should have known better. But her team only gathered the bare minimum number of signatures.

The Republicans noticed the paltry number of signatures and quickly “pounced” on them. They only wound up having to challenge three signatures to get the Democrat knocked off the ballot. She claims she will be challenging the ruling, but it’s tough to see how she gets this overturned. This isn’t some complex legal issue. It’s a matter of simple math. You have to have 1,900 valid signatures by the deadline and she fell short of the mark.

As I mentioned at the top, this probably won’t have too much of an impact on the midterms. Her opponent is Chuck Grassley. He’s been in the Senate since 1981 and he obviously has a savvy enough campaign team by this point to take advantage of a rookie mistake like this. And particularly in the current political climate where the Democrats’ numbers are plummeting across the board, Finkenauer’s odds of unseating Grassley were not particularly good (to put it kindly) even if she had run a flawless campaign.

So let this be a lesson for anyone thinking of joining a campaign or running for office themselves. You have to pay attention to the details because your opponent most certainly will be if they have any sort of skilled campaign team. The first person a campaign should hire is an experienced campaign accountant to watch all of the donations that come in and vet the donors. Your opponent will be examining every campaign finance report you submit with a magnifying glass and they will beat you over the head with it when you mess up. But the next most important hire is a campaign manager/staffer who will be in charge of taking care of your volunteers. And that person should be fully trained in the signature-gathering process, with the ability to train the volunteers sufficiently to do the job. A failure to do that can lead to your campaign being over before it even begins in earnest. And that’s what’s happening to Finkenauer this week.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on May 27, 2023