Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility OUR OPINION: FINKENAUER STAYS ON BALLOT, BUT CHALLENGE FROM FRANKEN AWAITS - Admiral Mike Franken for Iowa

OUR OPINION: FINKENAUER STAYS ON BALLOT, BUT CHALLENGE FROM FRANKEN AWAITS

Reversing a lower court decision, the Iowa Supreme Court on Friday ruled Abby Finkenauer can remain on the U.S. Senate primary ballot.

The decision likely comes as a big relief to establishment Democrats, who engaged in a lot of handwringing after Polk Court Judge Scott Beattie ruled Finkenauer did not submit enough signatures on nomination petitions to qualify for the June 7 primary.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other party insiders view the former one-term Iowa congresswoman as the party’s best choice to unseat Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley this fall.

But that calculation seems shortsighted. We feel one of the two remaining candidates on the ballot, Sioux City’s own Michael Franken, stands just as good, if not better, chance to pull the upset against the eighth-term incumbent in a mid-term election environment that likely will favor Republicans.

For the second straight cycle, the Democratic establishment is overlooking Franken, a retired admiral vice admiral and 36-year naval veteran. In 2020, he made his first run for the Senate, finishing second, with 25 percent of the vote, behind the nominee, businesswoman Teresa Greenfield. In a general election race that drew hefty national attention and outside spending, Greenfield lost to incumbent Republican Rep. Sen. Joni Ernst by 109,000 votes, or nearly 7 percent. 

Who’s to say Franken wouldn’t have made the race closer, if not won outright?

The 63-year-old, who grew up on a farm near Sioux Center, boasts an impressive resume highlighted by a military career that included commanding 24 ships and overseeing military forces in Africa, and years in policy, strategy and planning roles for the U.S. Department of Defense. He also served as a legislative affairs adviser to the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and managed a business.

Popular with many party activists, Franken also has proven to be a formable fundraiser, as he reported raising nearly $1.4 million during the first quarter of 2022

Having never held elected office previously, Franken would bring a fresh face to a seemingly uphill campaign against Grassley in a mid-term election environment that likely will favor Republican candidates. But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other national groups have again put the thumb on the scale for a candidate prior to the first votes cast by Iowa Democrats. After doing the same for Greenfield in 2020, the question is why? 

Who’s to say Franken wouldn’t have made the race closer, if not won outright?

The 63-year-old, who grew up on a farm near Sioux Center, boasts an impressive resume highlighted by a military career that included commanding 24 ships and overseeing military forces in Africa, and years in policy, strategy and planning roles for the U.S. Department of Defense. He also served as a legislative affairs adviser to the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and managed a business.

Popular with many party activists, Franken also has proven to be a formable fundraiser, as he reported raising nearly $1.4 million during the first quarter of 2022

Having never held elected office previously, Franken would bring a fresh face to a seemingly uphill campaign against Grassley in a mid-term election environment that likely will favor Republican candidates. But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other national groups have again put the thumb on the scale for a candidate prior to the first votes cast by Iowa Democrats. After doing the same for Greenfield in 2020, the question is why? 

Finkenauer, 33, won her first term in the U.S. House by 5 percentage points in 2018 by knocking off a Republican incumbent in an eastern Iowa district. But two years later, she lost re-election by 2.6 points to Republican Ashley Hinson, a former TV news anchor.

Finkenauer’s Senate campaign was briefly thrown into turmoil last week after Beattie overruled the State Objections Panel that rejected challenges to Finkenauer’s campaign raised by two GOP activists. The panel and Finenauer’s campaign quickly appealed to the state Supreme Court, which unanimously reversed the lower court decision. 

State law requires Senate candidates to acquire at least 3,500 signatures, including at least 100 signatures each in at least 19 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Finkenauer’s campaign collected about 5,000 signatures, but at three signatures were not properly dated, the GOP activists claimed. Without those signatures from Allamakee and Cedar counties, Finkenauer’s petitions would have come up short. 

After Beattie’s ruling, Finenauer immediately lashed out in a partisan fashion, criticizing a “Republican judge” for doing the “bidding of Chuck Grassley and his allies in Washington,” despite no evidence to back up such accusations against a respected judge.

Finkenauer should have acknowledged her own mistake in not gathering more than enough signatures in the event a handful were thrown out. A candidate for the 100-member U.S. Senate should be competent enough to more than meet such bare minimum requirements.

With the primary ballot now finalized, we look forward to a robust campaign between Franken, Finkenauer and the third Democratic candidate, Glenn Hurst, a doctor and Minden City Council member. Hopefully, the race will focus on the candidates’ positions and qualifications, rather than who has the most support from Washington Democrats and national groups. 

ELECT FRANKEN FOR U.S. SENATE

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