# Tom Miller



Favorite wildflowers of Iowa's 2022 Democratic ticket

For this post-primary election edition of Iowa wildflower Wednesday, I asked all of Iowa’s Democratic nominees for federal or statewide offices about their favorite wildflowers.

The candidates could choose any flowering plant. It didn’t have to be a native species or one that tends to bloom in Iowa around this time of year.

I’m presenting the wildflower choices in the same order the candidates appeared on the Iowa Secretary of State’s 2022 primary candidate list.

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Statewide candidates deserved better from Iowa Democratic Party

Democratic candidates for U.S. House, U.S Senate, and governor were given speaking time at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Liberty and Justice Celebration on April 30.

But the party’s three statewide elected officials and candidates for other statewide offices were relegated to pre-recorded videos. Even worse, those videos seemed designed for comic relief, rather than as a way for candidates to connect with hundreds of activists who attended the Des Moines fundraiser.

The missed opportunity was especially regrettable for Joel Miller and Eric Van Lancker, who are competing against each other in the June 7 primary for secretary of state.

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What the Supreme Court said—and didn't say—in Finkenauer case

The Iowa Supreme Court surprised many in the political and legal worlds on April 15 with a unanimous judgment reinstating U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to the Democratic primary ballot.

Five justices resolved an apparent contradiction between two parts of Iowa’s election law by saying an incorrect or missing date is not a valid reason for not counting a signature on a candidate’s petition. They reversed a Polk County District Court, which days earlier reached the opposite conclusion: that an undated signature cannot be counted, and therefore Finkenauer did not qualify for the ballot.

Two justices concurred with the outcome of reversing the lower court but did not explain their reasoning.

The result was a big loss for Republican plaintiffs who challenged the State Objection Panel’s decision to let three disputed signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions stand. It’s also an embarrassment for Republican legislators who moved last year to limit the panel’s discretion.

By deciding this case on narrow grounds, the Iowa Supreme Court left some big legal questions to be adjudicated another election year.

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How could this happen?

During a suspenseful meeting on March 29, the State Objection Panel allowed just enough signatures to stand for U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer, Attorney General Tom Miller, and State Representative Jeff Shipley to stay on the ballot.

Finkenauer needed at least 100 valid signatures from at least nineteen counties and hit nineteen exactly, with 100 in one county and 101 in two others. The Republicans who challenged her candidacy are seeking to reverse the outcome in court.

Miller needed at least 77 signatures from at least eighteen counties, and barely made it with 78 signatures in the eighteenth county.

Shipley needed at least 50 signatures from the Iowa House district where he is seeking re-election and was left with 52.

Many Iowa politics watchers have been wondering how these experienced candidates ended up hanging by a thread.

Bleeding Heartland asked all three campaigns why they didn’t give themselves more of a cushion by collecting far beyond the minimum number of signatures. Only one candidate answered the questions.

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About those nominating petitions

Art Hackett is a Texas born and raised retired TV reporter. He worked in Dubuque in the late 1970s and spent 30 years as a magazine segment producer with Wisconsin Public Television. He moved back to Cedar Rapids in retirement to be close to grandchildren.

Let’s discuss another day the apparent manipulation of the State Objection Panel’s review process. The Republicans on the panel were rejecting signatures due to the lack of dorm room numbers on address lines, even though the Iowa Code doesn’t require them. (I live in a single family home but perhaps they will want to know if I’m sleeping in the first or second floor bedroom.)

What concerns me right now is a flock of candidates who seemed to be shooting for the bare minimum number of signatures.

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What is—and isn't—in lawsuit against panel ruling on Finkenauer

Two Republican voters filed suit on March 31 challenging the State Objection Panel’s decision to allow U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to remain on the Democratic primary ballot.

Attorney Alan Ostergren, who has represented Republican candidates and committees in several high-profile election cases, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kim Schmett and Leanne Pellett. They charge that the panel, comprised of Secretary of State Paul Pate, Attorney General Tom Miller, and State Auditor Rob Sand, should have disallowed signatures on Finkenauer’s nominating petitions where voters did not provide the correct date. Doing so would have brought the Democratic front-runner’s campaign below the threshold of 100 signatures in at least nineteen counties.

Sand and Miller voted to allow those signatures to stand; Pate would have sustained the objection to them.

The lawsuit also charges that Sand and Miller should have recused themselves from considering the objection to Finkenauer’s petitions. If the auditor and attorney general had recused, as Ostergren had requested during the panel’s March 29 meeting, Republican statewide officials would have replaced them on the panel, and would surely have ruled against letting Finkenauer compete for the Democratic nomination.

However, the plaintiffs did not raise another argument that Ostergren had argued at length when asking the panel to invalidate signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions, and those filed by two other candidates.

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