Bill would require run-off elections after indecisive primaries

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would require run-off elections in August when a candidate fails to win 35 percent of the votes in a primary election in June.

Under current state law, a political party stages a convention to select a nominee if none of the candidates in a primary clear 35 percent. Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maqueketa who is a high school government teacher, said the system is hard to explain to his students.

“Remedy this little select group of coming and maybe selecting ‘their horse’ rather than what the people want,” Bowman said.

Back in 2014, State Senator Brad of Urbandale finished first in a Republican primary for a seat in congress, but since he won just 25 percent support, a nominating convention was held — and the 1,300 GOP convention delegates picked someone else.

“You know I have people that come to me on a daily basis that tell me: ‘Zaun, you got the short end of the stick,’”: Zaun said. “…We don’t want this to happen again. This lets the will of the people speak.”

Zaun is the lead sponsor of the bill.

“I don’t want the message to be that Brad Zaun is a sore loser because that is not the case because the good Lord had a different plan for me and that’s to be in the Iowa Senate and certainly I’m very happy I’m here,” Zaun said today. “I’m very happy I’m not in Washington, D.C.”

Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, says Zaun’s second place finish at that 2014 nominating convention did not reflect the “will of the people.”

“What happened epitomizes why people distrust politics and it makes them very cynical because you could watch it online, what was happening and all of the cajoling and so forth and the number five place jumps into the number one place,” Bisignano said.

That person is now Congressman David Young. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, notes Republican Steve King also got his first nomination to congress back in 2002 from a convention, too.

“So clearly the current system is broken and anything that prevent that kind of disaster from happening again is a welcome development,” Quirmbach said.

If Zaun’s bill becomes law, the required run-off elections after indecisive primaries would be held in races for county, state and federal offices.

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