Democrat running for Grassley's Iowa GOP Senate seat removed from primary for lacking signatures

The Democratic challenge is former Rep. Abby Finkenauer.
Sen. Chuck Grassley on June 17, 2020

An Iowa judge ruled has ruled that Democratic candidate and former Rep. Abby Finkenauer cannot run in her party's June 7 primary to unseat seven-term incumbent GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Polk County district Judge Scott Beattie said late on Sunday that Finkenauer lacked the valid signatures she needed on her nominating petition. The judge said Finkenauer failed to submit a petition with enough signatures after two Republicans challenged her signature collection.

The ruling, which overturned a previous 2-1 decision last  month by the State Objection Panel, will likely be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. Beattie says the panel misinterpreted the law pertaining to signatures. 

"This Court should not be in the position to make a difference in an election, and Ms. Finkenauer and her supporters should have a chance to advance her candidacy," wrote Beattie according to the Des Moines Register. "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​."

All U.S. Senate candidates are required to gather 3,500 signatures, including 100 from each of at least 19 counties. Finkenauer's campaign submitted more than 5,000 signatures, though the panel said she barely met the county requirement, submitting just 100 from one county and 101 each from two other counties. Beattie, however, found that three signatures did not include the date, leaving Finkenauer short of the required 19 counties.

Finkenauer served one-term before losing narrowly in 2020 to GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson.

Finkenauer's campaign says it will appeal the latest ruling.

"Our campaign submitted more than 5,000 signatures – 1,500 more signatures than are required to qualify for the ballot. We are confident that we have met the requirements to be on the ballot​," the campaign said in a statement.

The Iowa Supreme Court will need to generate a ruling by April 15, the date on which the secretary of state's office finalizes ballots such that they can be printed and sent to Iowans serving in the military abroad.