Rest in peace, Pat Ward

State Senator Pat Ward passed away this morning, having battled breast cancer since 2009. After the jump I’ve posted statements released by Iowa elected officials who worked with her. She was a Senate Republican staffer before running for office for the first time in 2004. Most recently, Ward served as an assistant Republican minority leader and ranking member of the Senate Labor and Business Committee.

Many of Ward’s yard signs around the district feature pink ribbons symbolizing the fight against breast cancer. I had heard that Ward missed a recent candidate forum in Waukee for health reasons, but I did not realize that her condition was so grave. Condolences to her loved ones.

In June, Ward beat back a strong primary challenge from social conservative Jeff Mullen in Iowa Senate district 22. Her name remains on the ballot for the general election. If she receives the most votes, a special election will be held later this year to fill the Senate seat, as happened in 2006 when an unopposed Iowa House candidate died before election day. If Ward’s Democratic challenger Desmund Adams wins Senate district 22, no special election will be necessary. CORRECTION: There will be a special election in Senate district 22. Under Iowa Code 49.58, the “vote cast at the general election for that office shall not be canvassed […] Instead, a special election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in December, for the purpose of electing a person to fill that office.” Republicans will choose a candidate to run against Desmund Adams.

Statement from Senate Republican Minority Leader Jerry Behn:

This is truly a sad day for Iowa. Senator Pat Ward was a courageous fighter not just for the hard working Iowans she represented tirelessly every day in the Iowa Senate but also a courageous fighter in her battle against cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with her husband John and her entire family and friends. The Iowa Senate Republicans lost a terrific colleague and incredible friend and we mourn her loss deeply.

Statement from Governor Terry Branstad:

It was with shock and sadness that I learned of my friend Pat Ward’s passing. She had a wonderful career in public service, and was such a caring and passionate person. As a senator, she was a champion for her district, took the time to get to know the issues, and worked in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of her constituents. She always had a positive outlook on life, even in illness, and her smile would brighten each room she entered. The thoughts and prayers of Chris and I are extended to her large network of family, friends and constituents.

Statement from Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds:

Having served with Pat in the Senate, I witnessed firsthand her dedication to the state of Iowa, and her incredible work every day on behalf of her constituents. Pat Ward was a dear friend, and the news of her passing is incredibly difficult and painful to hear. I hope all Iowans will look at her example, the way she cared for others and worked to make the world a better place, and remember her significant life and achievements. Our administration will miss her as a policy maker, and we all will personally miss her as a friend.

Statement from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky:

We are very sad to learn of Senator Pat Ward’s passing. This is a loss for the whole Iowa Senate family. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Senator Ward’s family and friends, as well as the many constituents and community members she served in both her public and private life.

Statement from Democratic Iowa Senate district 22 candidate Desmund Adams:

(Clive, Iowa) – This morning we were informed of the death of Sen. Pat Ward (R-West Des Moines) our opponent in the November general election.  Desmund Adams, Democratic candidate for Senate District 22 (Clive, Waukee, West Des Moines & Windsor Heights) had this comment, “We are all taken back by the death of Mrs. Ward.  I, and my family, lift up the Ward Family in our thoughts and prayers.  I ask all of our supporters and all Iowans to do the same.  Over the years many people have been touched by Mrs. Ward’s public service and it is indeed a sad day for all of Iowa.  In light of this tragic event I am suspending, for a brief period, my campaign.  Let us use this time to cherish her memory.”

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  • So what's likely to happen in the election?

    I hope asking that doesn’t sound crass, it’s terrible that Senator Ward has lost this battle.

    But this is a political site, and it’s a fair question with the election just 22 days away.

    I would guess Ward gets the most votes as a sympathy vote?  That’s what happened in MO-Sen 2000, when Mel Carnahan was killed soon before the election as he trailed John Ashcroft in polls, but then received the most votes in a sympathy surge.  But of course the opposite happened two years later when Paul Wellstone was killed.

    • it's a Republican district

      The latest statistics from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office show that there are 12,234 registered Democrats, 16,964 Republicans, and 14,716 no-party voters in SD-22. Ward was favored to win.

    • We'll never know who "won" in November

      Law says the votes SHALL not be canvassed. When Rep. Freeman died in 2006 results were not released.

      Different states have different laws. In Missouri, Mel Carnahan was required to stay on the ballot and voters understood that if he won Jean Carnahan would be appointed. (I have a button from that races which says “I’m Still For Mel.”) But Minnesota law required Wellstone to be replaced on the ballot, even thought it was only about two weeks to  the election, so it was Walter Mondale, not Wellstone, who lost.

  • yeah

    I had heard that Ward missed a recent candidate forum in Waukee for health reasons

    a lot of nasty comments were made.

    • That is truly sad

      I hope the comments weren’t made by folks in Democratic circles.  

      Senator Ward sounded like a truly dedicated public servant and she will be missed.

  • Wishing her family the best,

    55 is too young. I just had a friend from high school pass away this year in her forties due to cancer. Luckily, her kids are already in high school. It’s always a shock when people leave our lives with a sense of promise unfulfilled.

    I also thank Pat Ward for defeating Mullen w/ panache, even more incredible given that she had other things on her mind.

  • WILL be a special

    First of all, condolences and prayers for Pat’s family and supporters. This loss would be painful at any time; to have it happen three weeks before the election, amid the already intense emotions of campaign season, adds another layer to the hurt.

    Craig Robinson has a post up re: the details. SD22 will not be canvassed and the special is on December 11.…