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Finkenauer responds to criticism from within her party about comments she made about a district court judge

U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer walks out of the Iowa Judicial building after listening to oral arguments on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Des Moines.
Kelsey Kremer
Des Moines Register pool photo
U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer, holding hands with her husband Daniel Wasta, leaves the Iowa Supreme Court after listening to oral arguments on April 13 in Des Moines.

Iowa Democrats have expressed concern about comments one of their party’s U.S. Senate candidates made about a district court judge earlier this month.

A district court judge had ruled against Abby Finkenauer’s bid to stay on the primary ballot. Finkenauer said the judge was a Republican and made a mockery of democracy. The Iowa Supreme Court ultimately overruled the decision that had invalidated three signatures on the former congresswoman’s nominating petitions.

“I’m not going to say too much about the decision besides the fact that it was wrong,” Finkenauer told IPR while campaigning in Buchanan County Friday, when asked if she regrets making the comments. “Clearly it was [wrong] when the lower court got overturned by a 7-0 Supreme Court decision where we followed the law, we’re on the ballot and I think that speaks for itself.”

Finkenauer says her petitions were accepted by the secretary of state's office and passed a bipartisan commission and pointed out that it was Republican operatives who took the challenge to the courts.

This week, Democratic State Auditor Rob Sand said Finkenauer’s criticism of the district court judge who ruled against her bid to stay on the June Primary ballot was inappropriate

“That judge did his job,” Sand said Thursday during taping of Iowa PBS’s “Iowa Press” program. “He worked all weekend to get that ruling issued on a Sunday night in order to give whoever was going to be the losing party a chance to appeal.”

On April 11, Finkenauer tweeted that “in the dead of night, a Republican judge made a partisan decision…that is a gift to Washington Republicans.”

Sand, who is an attorney, said the district court judge Finkenauer criticized is “well-respected.”

Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines who is seeking reelection and has endorsed Finkenauer, recently said on WHO-TV that criticizing the judge “is probably something that I wouldn’t do.”

Finkenauer is one of three Democrats running in hopes to face Republican U-S Senator Chuck Grassley in the fall.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.