DES MOINES, Iowa –That's it. It's over. Former Iowa Republican Speaker of the House Ron Corbett is giving up his bid to try to topple his own party's history-making Governor Kim Reynolds--the first woman to hold the position--following a Polk County District Court judge's ruling released Thursday morning.
Judge David May's decision was the latest setback in Corbett's long shot bid to defeat Reynolds in June's Republican primary. It underscored the Corbett campaign's greatest failure. That was its inability to complete what is typically a basic step: turning in the required amount of valid Iowa signatures to the secretary of state's office.
The judge's ruling said, "Mr. Ron Corbett's nomination papers did not meet the requirements" to satisfy Iowa Code. And it added that "Mr. Corbett's petition will be dismissed."
When he began his remarks to reporters after the ruling became public, he said, "I have great admiration for (University of Iowa Head Football) Coach Kirk Ferentz. Whenever the coach loses a football game, he talks about that game for 24 hours and he moves on. That's the approach I'm going to take."
In football terms, Corbett's petition to the district court was a "Hail Mary." But it fell incomplete as the judge refused to let Corbett's campaign submit additional signatures that the campaign claimed its own staff originally, mistakenly crossed off.
In the end, that left Corbett eight valid signatures short on his official petition papers. State guidelines require 4,005 valid signatures to legally qualify for the ballot.
"Will haunt me for the balance of my life," Corbett said, "Why we came up eight short. But that's it. Eight short. As I've told people, I'm not going to throw people under the bus or kick people to the curb. It is what it is. And that's what I have to accept."
Corbett knew that his court fight would be difficult. Last Tuesday, a three-person state panel of Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate, State Auditor Mary Mosiman, and Attorney General Tom Miller also declined to put Corbett on the primary ballot.
Corbett said he will not run an Independent candidate but will support Governor Reynolds, who he heavily criticized during his campaign and accused of working with the political "establishment" to keep him off the ballot.
Corbett added that he doesn't hold any bad feelings toward the governor. "The answer is we share the same passion for the state of Iowa," Corbett said, "I'll be supporting her."
He plans to try to restart Engage Iowa, a conservative think tank where he served as executive director. The organization suspended operations during his run for governor. Corbett acknowledged that he wasn't sure if the organization will be able to restart. He said that if it doesn't, he will look for a job in the private sector.
Reynolds' campaign responded to the end of Corbett's primary campaign with a statement:
"I want to thank Ron Corbett for his commitment and service to the people of Iowa. Now is the time for the Republican Party to unite and I look forward to leading our team to victory up and down the ballot this November. My campaign will focus on building a better Iowa so that every Iowan can live in a state with endless opportunity.”
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann also released a statement:
“We’re putting our full support behind Governor Kim Reynolds’ campaign to continue moving Iowa forward. Under Governor Reynolds’ leadership, Iowa is the best state in the nation, and she has the leadership, vision, and resolve needed to make our state even better than it is today. There is no one in this race more committed to Iowans and their future than our Governor. In 2016, Republican unity led us to victory, and by uniting behind Governor Reynolds, we’re once again in a strong position for victory this November."
“I want to commend former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett for running a hard-fought campaign. His commitment to the conservative movement in Iowa has made our party stronger. We’re fortunate to have had a Republican at the helm of Iowa’s second largest city and for his service in the state legislature. We hope that Ron Corbett will remain an active voice for the party and look forward to working with him in the future.”