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Judge backs decision to keep governor candidate off ballot

April 5, 2018

A state court judge will rule soon on the fate of former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett's campaign for governor. Corbett asked a Polk County judge Tuesday, April 3, 2018, to allow signatures crossed out in his ballot petition to be counted after a state elections panel refused to consider them. Corbett is seeking to challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds in the Republican primary. (AP Photo/Scott Stewart)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former speaker of the Iowa House learned Thursday that he won’t be allowed to challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds in the Republican primary, as a judge upheld a state elections panel’s conclusion that he fell eight signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.

Ron Corbett, who has also served as Cedar Rapids’ mayor, said he was disappointed by the ruling and that it would “haunt” him for the rest of his life that he didn’t collect more signatures.

“It is what it is, and that’s what, you know, I have to accept,” Corbett told reporters by phone.

A panel comprised of Iowa’s secretary of state, state auditor and attorney general determined last week that Corbett fell eight signatures shy of the 4,005 he would need to get on the primary ballot, rejecting signatures that had been crossed out. Corbett sued in the hopes of getting those crossed-out signatures deemed valid, but the Polk County judge sided with the panel.

Corbett said he’ll support Reynolds, who will be the only Republican on the ballot and whom he described as “the most conservative candidate left in the race.” However, he reiterated his disappointment at the Republican Party establishment and lamented the influence of special interest groups in Iowa politics.

Reynolds released a statement calling for Republicans to unite behind her candidacy. The primary ballot will include the names of six Democrats and two Libertarians.

Jeff Kaufmann, the state GOP’s chairman, said in a release that Reynolds has the party’s full support and that he hopes Corbett “will remain an active voice for the party.”

While not dismissing seeking office in the future, Corbett said he has no immediate plans to do so. He said he hopes to return to his Engage Iowa think tank or seek employment in the private sector.

Corbett said he’ll return unspent campaign funds to donors. He also firmly rejected seeking the governor’s office as an independent.

“Although I’m not a happy Republican today, I’m still Republican,” he said.

In his lawsuit, Corbett’s attorneys argued that otherwise valid signatures that had been crossed out should have been considered by the elections panel, which they said could have used a more permissive standard than the secretary of state’s office uses.

Judge David May said those signatures were ineligible and rejected the suggestion to allow voters to make the decision, writing that “democracy requires courts to follow statutes that have been lawfully enacted by the people’s elected representatives.”

Secretary of State Paul Pate encouraged future candidates to collect “significantly more petition signatures than is required.” He said in a news release that he’s telling county auditors to start preparing the June 5 primary ballots.

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Follow Scott Stewart on Twitter: http://twitter.com/sstewartomaha

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