One candidate who filed was thrown off the primary ballot Tuesday by the state objection panel, which is comprised of Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate, Democrat Attorney General Tom Miller and Democrat Auditor Rob Sand.
Jordan Omstead, who served in the Air Force for nearly a decade, filed to run against Rep. Joel Fry (R-Osceola) in House District 27. The objection was based on the fact that Omstead was registered No Party while collecting signatures to run in the Republican primary.
Jake Highfill filed the objection with the Secretary of State. Highfill told Molly Widen, who is the Secretary of State’s legal counsel, the eligible elector he was filing on behalf of was Joyce Neal.
Neal was asked to discuss the objection. She identified herself on the call as chair for Fry’s campaign and did not have any information add to what Widen said.
Omstead was registered as No Party, but said he thought checking the Republican box on his nomination papers would change that. He said it was his own misunderstanding of the system and he said it was his fault.
Widen emailed Omstead on Friday to tell him about the objection. He said he got home from work at 10 o’clock and logged into the DOT system to update his voter registration information. As of Tuesday, he was registered Republican, but that was after the filing deadline.
“I would’ve done it sooner if I had understood the implications of that,” Omstead said. “My apologies for not doing so.”
Iowa Code 43.14 (d) states nomination papers should include the political party with which the candidate is a registered voter.
One key issue that was raised just minutes earlier was whether the objection had standing since Highfill is not an eligible elector in House District 27. Widen asked for questions from the panel, but none were presented.
Matt Gannon, assistant AG, said the panel addressed a matter similar to it two years ago. He said there was a candidate who filed nomination papers as a Republican to run in a primary, but he was registered as a Democrat at the time he circulated his petitions.
The panel determined the candidate’s failure to be registered within the party he was seeking the nomination was not substantial compliance under the law.
Pate asked for input or questions from Miller and Sand. Pate then moved for a vote to uphold the challenge after nobody asked any questions.
Miller and Pate voted in favor of upholding the challenge. Sand was asked for his vote. He mentioned the same issue he had brought up previously on standing for Highfill filing the complaint.
Sand asked if it was too late to raise the issue. Pate said the panel was in the middle of a vote and he did not anticipate Sand having questions.
“I think between that and, if I didn’t mention it during the first one, I meant to say I wasn’t going to make my point each time,” Sand said. “Just for efficiency’s sake.”
Pate said he was putting that discussion off for a challenge where someone brought it up to their specific challenge. Pate said under Robert’s Rules of Order, they were already voting.
“I think we should probably — you know, our procedures are not as formal as others,” Miller said. “If Rob wants to raise this issue, I think we should consider it, even though we’ve gotten pretty far down the road. I’m concerned about this issue. The same question as I had before, did Joyce Neal sign any objection? Is there anything with her signature?”
Pate said he did not believe there is. He said once a vote is being cast, he is uncomfortable shifting to a different issue.
Widen said Iowa Code states a written objection is required without specifically requiring a signature.
Sand said he understood, but his understanding is the objection should be filed by an eligible elector in that district.
“No, and I’m basing my concern off of the idea that it’s got to be filed by that individual, which I don’t think sending it in and then after the fact adding to it would be meet the definition of the word file,” Sand said. “Look, you know, apologies for the confusion if I didn’t get to the mute button quickly enough. I think just on the, if I didn’t raise the issue, I’ll vote as though I didn’t raise the issue in time, since I suppose that is what the record reflects.”
Pate asked if Sand was casting his ballot to support the challenge. Sand never answered, but it was recorded as being upheld 3-0.
At the end of the two-hour conference, Miller added he would no longer support challenges like those filed by Highfill, who is not an eligible elector in the district where he filed a challenge.
Omstead told The Iowa Standard he is still trying to figure out what it all means and where he will go next.
He spent four years at the Air Force Academy and then served as an officer in Alaska, Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan.