IA-03: Theresa Greenfield off Democratic primary ballot

Secretary of State Paul Pate did not certify Theresa Greenfield’s candidacy in Iowa’s third Congressional district today, following advice from Attorney General Tom Miller. The Iowa Democratic Party’s Third District Central Committee voted on March 26 to designate Greenfield as an “additional primary election candidate.” Miller declined last week to issue a legal opinion on whether the relevant portion of Iowa code applies to Greenfield’s circumstances. But in an analysis released today, the attorney general said the statute is intended “to encourage and ensure contested primaries” and “is not a do-over provision” for candidates who failed to qualify for the ballot through ordinary means.

I’ve posted the full statement and legal analysis from the Attorney General’s office after the jump, along with a statement from Greenfield accepting Miller’s conclusion. She could have filed a lawsuit challenging Pate’s refusal to certify her, but she probably would not have succeeded for reasons Bleeding Heartland discussed here and here.

The big question mark now is where Greenfield’s prominent supporters, including major labor unions, will land. Three Democrats are competing for the chance to take on two-term Representative David Young: Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, and Eddie Mauro. Although they agree on many issues, they have been making very different cases to voters. Each has well-known advocates in Iowa Democratic circles.

Axne angered some Greenfield backers by lobbying the central committee not to invoke Iowa Code 43.23, whereas Mauro promised last week not to challenge efforts to add Greenfield to the ballot. D’Alessandro helped Greenfield during her mad dash to collect new signatures on March 16.

Iowa Attorney General’s office press release, March 28:

Miller advises secretary of state: Greenfield does not qualify for ballot
Law does not permit her name on the congressional primary ballot

(DES MOINES, Iowa) Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has advised Secretary of State Paul Pate not to certify Theresa Greenfield’s candidacy for the Third District congressional primary ballot.

Chapter 43 of the Iowa Code does not permit Greenfield to be designated as “an additional primary election candidate,” according to the Attorney General’s legal analysis. A provision of the law “provides political parties a safety valve to fill candidate slots that unexpectedly become vacant due to the death or withdrawal of a primary candidate. Its purpose is to encourage and ensure contested primaries. It is not a do-over provision.”

“The statue envisions and requires that the original candidate fully qualify as a valid candidate. Theresa Greenfield never fully and properly qualified as a candidate since her first petition contained forgeries and her second petition did not have enough signatures,” Miller said in a statement.

“We also believe that when all relevant sections Chapter 43 are read together, the code requires someone other than the original candidate be the replacement.”

Greenfield submitted her candidacy petition on March 14 but withdrew it, citing forged signatures. She submitted a new petition just before the deadline on March 16, but it contained too few signatures.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s Third District Central Committee voted Monday to nominate Greenfield for the primary ballot.

Secretary Pate did not certify Greenfield for the primary ballot.

Full text of Attorney General Tom Miller’s legal analysis:

DATE: March 28, 2018
ISSUE PRESENTED: If a person successfully files but then withdraws nomination papers for an office because the petition contained fraudulent signatures, then submits a second set of nomination papers for the office that are rejected by the Iowa Secretary of State because they lacked a sufficient number of acceptable signatures, may that person then be designated pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 43.23 and included by the Secretary of State on the chapter 43.22 certificate as a candidate for that same office?

SHORT ANSWER:No. On these facts, the statutory framework set out in chapter 43 does not permit this person to be designated as an “additional primary election candidate” for the nomination she was originally seeking.

ANALYSIS: Iowa Code chapter 43.23 provides the starting point for this analysis. If a person who has filed nomination papers with the Secretary of State as a candidate for a primary election dies or “withdraws” up to the 76th day before the primary election, chapter 43.23 provides a mechanism for that person’s political party to “designate one additional primary election candidate for the nomination that person was seeking.” The code then requires the name of the “additional” candidate to be included on the appropriate chapter 43.23 certificate. On the facts presented here, there are two fundamental reasons why chapter 43.23 does not apply.

First, chapter 43.23 is, in essence, a substitution provision. It provides political parties a safety valve to fill candidate slots that unexpectedly become vacant due to the death or withdrawal of a primary candidate. Its purpose is to encourage and ensure contested primaries. It is not a do-over provision. Here, there is a significant question – raised by the candidate herself – about the legitimacy of the nomination papers initially submitted and accepted by the Secretary of State. Indeed, the candidate requested that the nomination petition be “withdrawn.” The second set of nomination papers were rejected as not meeting the statutory requirements for the office in question. Thus, here, even if chapter 43.23 applied, there is a real question about whether there is “candidate slot” that the party may fill.

Second, on its face it is difficult to read chapter 43.23 as permitting the designation of the person who “withdraws” as the “additional primary election candidate” for the same nomination. That difficulty becomes insurmountable when chapter 43.23 is read in the context of the balance of chapter 43. In particular, chapter 43.16 expressly provides “[t]he name of a candidate who has withdrawn … shall be omitted from the certificate furnished by the state commissioner under section 43.22 and omitted from the primary ballot.” The only way to give both provisions effect is to interpret 43.23 to require the person designated by the political party to be a different person from the person who previously sought the nomination but “withdraws.” This interpretation of chapter 43.23 honors both the basic canons of statutory construction and common sense: to read it otherwise invites its use as a mechanism to subvert the thoughtful statutory framework of chapter 43 by allowing a candidate who failed to comply with the required nomination framework a backdoor to the primary ballot that was not intended.

March 28 statement from Theresa Greenfield:

Greenfield Statement After Attorney General Tom Miller Advises that Law Does Not Permit Name on Primary Ballot

DES MOINES, Iowa – “This is a tough pill to swallow for all of our friends and supporters who worked so hard the past two weeks to put my name on the ballot, including what was really a difficult and courageous vote of support on Monday by the Third District Central Committee of the Iowa Democratic Party. But I accept the Attorney General’s decision.”

“As for me, I will never regret doing the right thing in pulling a petition with forged signatures. The outpouring since that moment proves that Iowans, regardless of where they live on the political spectrum, are tired of politicians who look away from what’s wrong and refuse to do what’s right,” she said.

“Every single day I’ve been in this race, I have been incredibly blessed and energized by so many people who care about their neighbors and this state. With that same farm-girl grit Iowans have seen over the past few weeks, I will continue fighting for our hardworking families, our labor unions, our small businesses, our farms and our rural communities.”

When asked what she will do next, Greenfield replied simply: “Make banana bread!”

Top image: Clockwise, from left: David Young, Cindy Axne, Eddie Mauro, Pete D’Alessandro.

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  • Minor side note

    I’m certainly not arguing that it should be otherwise, but it does interest me that the name of the campaign manager who forged the signatures has apparently never been made public.