Democrat Joel Miller running for secretary of state

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller confirmed on September 16 that he will seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, pledging to take the fight to Republican incumbent Paul Pate in order to “bring back trust and fairness in Iowa’s elections.”

Miller has served as auditor of Iowa’s second-largest county since 2007 and was most recently re-elected in 2020. He’s been exploring a bid for statewide office since late last year; he and Pate have clashed over numerous election administration issues, from absentee ballot drop boxes to absentee ballot request forms to voter list maintenance.

The auditor’s campaign announcement highlighted one of those battles, noting that Miller “made national headlines during the 2020 election when he was sued by President Donald Trump’s campaign for expanding voter participation and health and safety measures in the wake of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.”

That lawsuit stemmed from the decision by three county auditors to defy a directive from Pate and fill in voters’ information on absentee ballot request forms mailed to all registered voters in their jurisdiction. A District Court judge invalidated the pre-filled forms, and the Iowa Supreme Court later agreed. Asked how he would respond to Republican critics who say the courts sided with them in the dispute, Miller told Bleeding Heartland via email, “I did the right thing. I would do it again. And if I’m elected, no county auditor will ever be in this position again because as Secretary of State, I will work to make voting easy again.”

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Democrat Eric Van Lancker running for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats have their first confirmed candidate for secretary of state in 2022. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker announced on September 15 that he will seek the office, saying in a news release that he has a “passion for helping my neighbors vote, backed up by experience and an understanding of how to run elections the right way.”

Alluding to Republican incumbent Paul Pate, Van Lancker said in the statement,

“Iowans have never needed a voting advocate more than they do at this moment […]”

“Voters pay for the election system and they deserve to have leadership that builds confidence in the system instead of undermining it for short-term political points,” Van Lancker said. “It is long past time for a County Auditor to return to the Secretary of State’s office. Iowa voters deserve a state commissioner of elections who knows what it is like to be on the front lines of an election and has respect and knowledge of the work precinct election officials perform during an election.”

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Linn County auditor exploring 2022 bid for Iowa secretary of state

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller may run for secretary of state next year, the Democrat announced on his blog January 30. Miller created an exploratory committee in November with the goal of recruiting “a current or former county auditor to run for Secretary of State in 2022 or to run for Secretary of State myself.”

If Miller runs for statewide office, he’ll transfer money raised by the exploratory committee to his campaign account. He plans to transfer any unspent funds to the Iowa Democratic Party if he decides not to challenge Republican incumbent Paul Pate.

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Iowa Republicans may regret blocking statewide absentee ballot mailing

July 6 was the first day Iowans can request an absentee ballot for the 2020 general election. Under normal circumstances, I prefer voting early in person and have encouraged others to do the same. But voting by mail is by far the safest option for 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican legislators signaled last week they won’t allow Secretary of State Paul Pate to send absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter again.

Election officials in Iowa’s largest counties aren’t waiting to see how things play out. Several auditors are already making plans for their own universal mailings. Higher turnout in those counties should benefit Democratic candidates for federal offices and state legislative seats.

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First look at Jim Mowrer's campaign for Iowa secretary of state

Vowing to fight for every vote to be counted and to “say no to making it harder and more expensive to vote,” Jim Mowrer launched his campaign for secretary of state on August 3. He is well-known to many Democrats as Representative Steve King’s 2014 opponent in the fourth Congressional district and Representative David Young’s challenger in the third district last year. Follow me after the jump for more on Mowrer’s case for his candidacy and against Secretary of State Paul Pate, including highlights from an interview with Bleeding Heartland.

Mowrer will have at least one competitor in the Democratic primary. Deidre DeJear launched her campaign on August 6. She’s on the web, Facebook, and Twitter. I recently spoke to DeJear about her background and goals and have a post in progress on her secretary of state campaign. Iowa Starting Line profiled her here.

State Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City has not ruled out the secretary of state race either, he told me in late July.

I’ve reached out to several county auditors who had floated the idea of challenging Pate in 2018. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald told me he is no longer considering a run for higher office. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert announced on Facebook on August 3 that Mowrer “has my full backing.” UPDATE: Two more county auditors endorsed Mowrer on August 7. Scroll to the end of this post for details.

Nathan Blake, who had been thinking about this race, confirmed two weeks ago that he has decided against it.

Because I believe the most dangerous thing about the Trump Republican Party is its disdain for democracy and its corresponding voter suppression efforts, I had been planning to run for Secretary of State in 2018. However, in May Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller asked me to take on a new role as a Deputy Attorney General. I believe I can do the most good over the next few years working for AG Miller to stand up for the rule of law, keep Iowans safe, and protect consumers. While I won’t be running for anything this cycle, I’ll continue to fight for voting rights and other progressive policies and I’ll evaluate opportunities to serve in elected office in the future.

Bill Brauch likewise considered running for secretary of state but will not be a candidate for any office next year. Instead, he told me, he will continue volunteering as the Iowa Democratic Party’s Third District Chair.

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Paul Pate angered by county auditors' criticism of voter ID bill

Stung by criticism of his proposal to enact new voter ID and signature verification requirements, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate accused some county auditors of pursuing a “partisan” agenda, as well as lobbing “blatant distortions,” “smears,” and “cheap shots.” Pate made the accusations during a legislative briefing for the Iowa State Association of County Auditors on March 9. Earlier that day, House Republicans had approved a version of Pate’s bill, ignoring feedback from many who warned the legislation would disenfranchise eligible voters.

At least four Democratic county auditors are considering running for secretary of state next year, largely because Pate has pushed for voter ID, Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register yesterday. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, and Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz will likely confer and “agree in advance on putting forward a single candidate,” they told Noble. Nathan Blake may also seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.

Pate didn’t call out any county auditors by name during his March 9 speech, but he sounded particularly enraged by Weipert, who has been a leading critic of the voter ID bill and testified against the proposal at a public hearing.

The Secretary of State’s Office made a recording of Pate’s remarks (which I requested on March 14) available to me only this morning. You can download the file through Dropbox. I enclose below my partial transcript. UPDATE: Embedded the video below, since the Dropbox link wasn’t working for some.

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