© 2022 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Political News

Patty Judge Tries to Prevent a Seventh Term for Chuck Grassley

Amy Mayer/John Pemble
Left: Chuck Grassley speaks in Nevada, Iowa in October 2015. Right: Patty Judge appears on IPR's River to River in May 2016.

Next week, Iowans will decide whether to send Republican Senator Chuck Grassley back to Washington for a seventh term. His main opponent, Democrat Patty Judge, is working to paint the senator as a leading cause for obstruction in the US Senate. 

At 83-years-old, Senator Chuck Grassley has never really had to worry about reelection. Iowans tend to favor incumbents and Grassley’s seventh bid was looking tough for Democrats to stop. But they saw an opportunity following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In mid-March, president Obama had announced his pick to replace Scalia.

“The one name that has come up repeatedly from Republicans and Democrats alike is Merrick Garland,” President Obama said back in March.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Senator Grassley said he would not hold hearings for Obama’s nominee. He continues to say he wants voters to select the next president first. Enter 72-year-old Former Lt. Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge.

“I do not believe they have the right to say we are not going to have hearings because we have a presidential election,” Judge said as she entered the primary race,

After winning the primary, Judge has been hitting Grassley for holding up the nomination process and casting him as someone who does not work for Iowa anymore.

“He’s putting partisan politics ahead of what is better, best for our state,” Judge said in Des Moines before a speech by Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton in September. “Whether it’s holding the Supreme Court hostage or risking healthcare for women. He is no longer standing up for Iowa values.”

Judge often ties Grassley to his support for the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Whom Grassley says he’s voting for. Grassley and Trump were speakers at Iowa freshman Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride. While many Iowa Republicans appeared on-stage with their presidential nominee, Grassley did not. He is standing by his decision to wait on holding Supreme Court nominee hearings. He hopes for a nominee he calls "dispassionate".

“Unlike Breyer and Ginsberg and Kagan, and Sotomayor that vote as a bloc all the time on ideological way and aren’t always dispassionate,” Grassley told IPR News in October. “We’ll have to consider the people that whoever the president nominates. Whether it’s Hillary or somebody else and go through the process. And then once you go through the process you make a decision are you going to vote yes or no.”

Grassley backed out of the only debate that was to be televised statewide on Iowa Public Television, although the two squared off in a debate last month in Sioux City, shown on TV screens in less than half of the state.  Judge put Grassley on the defensive, saying issues like making education more affordable and the environment are not getting talked about in the U-S Senate.

“When my opponent talks about the need to get out of there in Washington after having been there for 42 years is almost humorous,” Judge said during the debate. “I don’t need to have 99 town hall meetings to know what’s going on in Iowa. I live here.”

Grassley blamed inaction on Democrats and shot back at Judge.

“My opponent, I don’t think she means to imply that coming home on a regular basis and having all these meetings and making the process of government work is something that’s wrong about Washington,” Grassley said during the debate. “That’s kind of what I heard, though.”

Judge’s campaign has called her the Judge Chuck Grassley cannot ignore. And he hasn’t – his campaign has raised more than eight-million dollars to protect his seat. But polls continue to show the senator doing quite well.

Libertarian Charles Aldrich, Independent Michael Luick-Thrams, and Jim Hennager of the New Independent Party Iowa are also on the senate ballot.  Aldrich and Luick-Thrams have been guests on IPR's River to River program.  Click on their names to hear those interviews.