DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer will appear on the June 7 Iowa Democratic primary ballot, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday, reversing a trial court decision that said Finkenauer did not have enough petition signatures.
A state district judge ruled Sunday that the Democratic candidate, a former congresswoman who hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Charles Grassley in the fall, failed to get the legally required number of signatures on her nominating petition for the primary ballot. Finkenauer and Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller, also a Democrat, filed an expedited appeal to the state high court, which was argued Wednesday.
At issue was whether three signatures on Finkenauer’s nomination petition should not have been counted because the signers failed to include a date on the signature line.
Two Iowa Republicans who challenged the legality of Finkenauer’s petition cited a state statute that requires a date. Finkenauer and the Attorney General cited a different – and more recent – statute listing reasons for disqualifying signatures, which does not include a date requirement among those reasons.
The state high court’s unsigned ruling handed down Friday said that in an effort to harmonize the conflicting statutes, it found the most recent to be controlling.
“In the end, we believe we must be guided by the legislature’s last word on the subject,” the court said. “Iowa Code section 4.8 provides, ‘If statutes enacted at the same or different sessions of the legislature are irreconcilable, the statute latest in date of enactment by the general assembly prevails.’”
Two judges on the seven-member court filed separately to say they concurred only in the judgment.
In a statement released Friday, Finkenauer said the court battle was an effort to undermine the democratic process.
“I ran for the U.S. Senate because I was worried about the direction of our country — about the division and polarization that has put people so far into their corners that they will do anything to try to get elected, including undermining the democratic process itself,” she said. “That the Iowa Supreme Court even had to consider this challenge should be a warning sign to advocates for democracy all across the country.”
Des Moines attorney Alan Ostergren, who represented the two Republicans who challenged Finkenauer’s petition, said Friday’s decision was “based on a narrow issue of statutory interpretation” and points to the need for clarifying legislation.
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