The Iowa Supreme Court made the prudent call by allowing Abby Finkenauer to remain on the June Democratic primary ballot for the US Senate. A few citizens on nomination papers in two rural counties failed to date their signatures, which a district court judge ruled is required by Iowa law. A state review board had allowed Finkenauer to stay on the ballot on a challenge filed by two Republican county chairs.
The few errant signatures were between others that were dated properly. But those few were enough for Finkenauer to fall short in those two counties. She cut the number of signatures too close.
Her name should remain on the ballot as the review board concluded. Viewed in context, the lack of dates should not be fatal to her nomination.
Democrats, however, have reason to think hard about whether Finkenauer is the right person to take on Sen. Chuck Grassley, the venerable Republican. The failure to establish a cushion with nomination papers suggests organizational weakness and lax management. That raises questions for Democrats who understand that a candidate can afford to make no mistakes if they intend to beat Grassley. This mistake was a big one.
Finkenauer also ripped the district court ruling as being partisan, something done in the dark of night. In fact, the district court judge issued an evening ruling to give Finkenauer the time she needed to file a timely appeal. The judge cited the letter of the law. He was not partisan, he took too narrow a view. She may think that her statements about the judge and the process helped her. Some may wonder about prudence.
The other leading Democratic challenger, Mike Franken of Sioux City, is a retired admiral who apparently has things buttoned down. He also outraised Finkenauer $1.4 million to $1.15 million in the quarter ending March 31. Dr. Glenn Hurst of Menlo raised $33,974.
Franken has suddenly become the front-runner. He has TV ads going up. The primary is weeks away and, as Finkenauer has learned, things can change overnight. Franken has picked up a lot of momentum after Finkenauer in the early going won widespread labor support. The supreme court ruling will allow Democrats, and not a couple GOP county chairs, to determine their Senate nominee. That’s as it should be. The ruling serves Franken by raising doubts about Finkenauer’s electability. That’s what primaries are all about. Grassley certainly would make an issue of it with his considerable war chest.
Polluted father of waters
It came as no surprise that the advocacy group American Rivers listed the Mississippi River as one of the 10 Most Endangered Rivers in the USA. Last year, the group listed the Raccoon River as the ninth-most endangered because of ag chemical pollution (again, almost not news). The Mississippi suffers from nitrate and phosphorous runoff from the likes of the Raccoon, but is plagued by even more problems.
American Rivers documents loss of habitat along the Mississippi, microplastics and pharmaceutical pollution, and extreme flooding driven by climate change that is overwhelming aging and inadequate infrastructure. But just on nitrogen removal alone, Iowa will spend $333 million over five years to make drinking water safe. The report calls for a Mississippi River Restoration Initiative that would spend some $300 million a year through the Environmental Protection Agency. American Rivers said current state funding efforts are disjointed and anemic. It is calling for a non-regulatory emphasis and models the river project after the Great Lakes Restoration Project.
They’re right. The multi-state collaborative involving Iowa designed to reduce nitrogen loads to rivers is doing nothing of the sort. We need a real effort to clean up Iowa waterways that involves everyone, but mainly what we get is more talk and nitrogen removal costs.