Patty Judge Officially Enters the Ring to Challenge Grassley

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On Thursday, as Democrats continued to hammer Chuck Grassley over his refusal to even hold confirmation hearings as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee for an Obama Supreme Court nominee, news broke that Patty Judge, the former Iowa agriculture secretary and lieutenant governor, would launch a bid to unseat Grassley this year.

Today, Judge confirmed the reports, accusing Grassley of “obstructing justice” in an interview with the Des Moines Register. In its report Thursday, the New York Times referred to Judge as a “formidable challenger” to the longtime senator, who has never been in a close Senate re-election campaign.

Before her stints as Iowa’s first woman secretary of agriculture under Gov. Tom Vilsack and as lieutenant governor under Chet Culver, Judge served in the state Senate. More recently, she co-chaired America’s Renewable Future, a bipartisan group launched ahead of the Iowa caucuses to “educate” presidential candidates on the value of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Judge is the fourth Democrat to enter the race, behind state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, former state Rep. Bob Krause, and former state Sen. Tom Fiegen. Krause and Fiegen previously ran for the seat in 2010, losing in the Democratic primary to Roxanne Conlin, a former federal attorney. Grassley coasted to re-election that year, defeating Conlin with over 64 percent of the vote.

In 2016, meanwhile, it’s still possible that Grassley may face a challenge from another judge (tip of the hat to Paul Hertz for that line): Jane Kelly, a former public defender from Cedar Rapids who in 2013 was confirmed with broad support — including from Grassley — to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.