Judge rejects Ron Corbett’s bid to get on the June primary ballot

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett speaking at the Douglas Mansion. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann

Ron Corbett will not be on the June primary ballot as a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, Polk County District Court David May decided on Wednesday evening. Corbett, the former mayor of Cedar Rapids, had filed a lawsuit last week challenging the decision of the State Objection Panel to keep him off the primary ballot, due to a lack of valid signatures on his candidate petition.

The State Objection Panel — made up of Secretary of State Paul Pate, Attorney General Tom Miller and State Auditor Mary Mossman — made its ruling in response to a complaint filed by longtime Iowa Republican Party activist Craig Robinson, who claimed that 111 of the signatures on Corbett’s candidate petition were invalid, either because they were duplicate signatures or because they failed to follow the proper form.

Corbett needed 4,005 valid signatures to make the ballot. His petition had 4,088. After examining the suspect signatures, the panel ruled that only 3,997 were valid, leaving Corbett eight signatures short.

On Tuesday, Corbett’s attorney argued in court that the panel should have counted signatures on the petition that Corbett claimed campaign workers had mistakenly crossed off, and which would give him the necessary number. Judge May rejected that argument.

In his decision, May wrote, “By striking through — or crossing off — the signatures at issue, Mr. Corbett’s campaign deleted those signatures from his nomination papers. The panel was correct, therefore, in refusing to count those signatures in Mr. Corbett’s favor.”

May concluded the law “does not give Mr. Corbett a do-over.”

Corbett was the only primary challenger for Gov. Kim Reynolds, who will now automatically receive the Republican nomination.

Following the judge’s decision, Reynolds released a statement through her campaign: “Now is the time for the Republican Party to unite and I look forward to leading our team to victory up and down the ballot this November.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, a combative Corbett said he thought the governor and her campaign had conspired with “dark money” groups to try to derail his campaign through the petition challenge. During a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning to address the judge’s ruling, Corbett struck a different tone.

“We didn’t have some of the staff that some of the campaigns do, so it’s something that I guess will haunt me for the balance of my life, why we came eight short,” he said of his failure to gather enough signatures. “But that’s it.”

Corbett also said during the call that he will not run as an independent, and he will support Reynolds in the election.

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