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Susan Judkins: Vinton native asks for recount in closest Iowa House race.

Vinton native Susan Judkins believes her decision to not run negative ads about her opponent might make her the loser in the closest election in the Iowa Legislature this year.

But Judkins, the daughter of Keith and Kathie Ervin, said she would rather lose than win with misleading ads.

Judkins, a Democrat who lives in Clive, has requested a recount of the results of the Iowa House District 43 election. Official vote totals in Polk County have her losing by just 22 votes to incumbent Chris Hagenow. The official vote totals show Hagenow winning by a margin of 8,741 to 8,719.

Judkins has filed a request for an official recount, and by no later then Dec. 3, will know for sure the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.

“I am fully aware it would be unusual to find as many as 22 votes to change the outcome, but it is possible.” Judkins told Vinton Today on Friday.

The recount process

Under Iowa law, a recount panel consists of only three people, one appointed by each candidate, and a third person agreed on by both campaigns. The three then will determine how to recount the ballots, and how many of the ballots to recount by hand.

The candidate with fewer votes traditionally asks for a hand recount, said Judkins. She said she plans to seek a hand recount of absentee ballots as well as those from early voting satellite polling places.

“That is because of some discrepancies we noticed with voting counting machines, said Judkins, who said that one of the four machines was “not acting right.” Because both candidates had many supporters, it is in the best interest of everyone to make sure that the votes were counted accurately, she said.

Even if her vote deficit margin had been larger than 22, said Judkins, the need to determine how well the voting machines worked would motivate her to seek a recount.

Judkins filed for a recount on Nov. 15; under Iowa law the process must end by Dec. 3.

Former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick has agreed to represent Judkins on the recount panel; Ted Sporer, an attorney and former Iowa GOP Chairman, will represent Hagenow. Those two are now finalizing negotiations on the third person, said Judkins.

Candidates are asked not to participate in the recount process after appointing their representative.

The recount process has been “interesting,” said Judkins, who said that McCormick is the perfect person to represent her in the recount.

“My campaign was all about being civil and honest from the beginning,” she said, “I wanted to choose a person who is known for both.”

Negative ads

Hageman’s campaign and the Iowa Republican Party paid for print and television ads that tried to paint Judkins as someone who is fiscally irresponsible.

“In their TV and print ads they claimed that I will tax spend and borrow,” said Judkins. “They tried to characterize me as a money waster.”

That portrayal is very false said Judkins, who identified herself as a Republican until changing parties in 2003.

“I am still a fiscal conservative; I have always done things that way,” she said.

Ads blamed Judkins for the IJOBS debt, and claimed that she “worked for an agency that spent $19,000 on carpet.”

First, said Judkins, she was not in the Legislature when it voted for the IJOBS program, and never had a chance to vote on it. Second, the carpet project was part of converting a crime lab into office space – and the project took place before Judkins started that job.

That carpet project actually allowed the state to save $200,000 buy using an existing building, said Judkins.

‘No prohibitions’

Many voters, said Judkins, think that if a political advertisement says something negative about a candidate, then there has to be some truth to it. But she says she learned that free speech guidelines basically mean there are no prohibitions the claims made in political ads, as there are in most other televised commercials.

“I think some people who saw that would have been scared to vote for me. “Those ads were very intentional and probably did have impact on the outcome of the election.

Losing by 22 votes means that even if only 12 voters who saw those negative ads changed their minds and voted against Judkins, that would have been enough to change the outcome.

Democratic leaders wanted to respond with similar ads about Hageman, but Judkins said no.

“I wanted everything I did said and wrote to be something the kids across the street to be proud of. I am not going to lie about things,” said Judkins. “I said I am not going to stretch the truth. I told them I would go along with anything that is real or true but not to stretch the truth – that is not something I would go along with.”

Some voters, said Judkins, may have been turned off by the negative ads they saw about her, and voted for her instead.

Regardless of the results, running the campaign her way was more important than the outcome.

“Who wants to live with the idea that you had to lie to win?” she asks. “I don’t. And maybe I still will win. If I happen to be successful with the recount it will raise more awareness of campaign tactics.”

Judkins said one of the things she learned about the process is how the negative ads affect not only the candidate but also all their family members, who go through the emotions.

“I appreciate my friends and family in Vinton and especially my brother and parents. I am sorry that it’s been hard for them.”

Some relatives in the area have saw those negative ads

“For people who know me, it’s been a really hurtful situation. I think that is something people need to realize.”

And, she says, most people who see the ads believe that politicians and political parties cannot run those ads unless there is some truth to what they are claiming.

That, she said, is not the case.

“There is no bar for truthfulness that has to be met in order for an ad to be run, like for most commercials,” she says. “The voters do believe there is some filter, but there is not."

‘Party label’

Judkins said she had been thinking about running for the Legislature before Democratic party leaders recruited her.

“Had given it some consideration, but did not make an early decision – I thought long and hard about it,” she recalls.

One reason for the indecision was a reluctance to put a party label on her campaign.

“I am a really moderate candidate and I gotten along with both parties,” she said. “I thought if I step out now and put a party label on my name, it could be harder to reach out to people who are confused about what party really fits them.”

Future plans

If the final tally holds up and Judkins does not win a seat in the house, she is happy to continue her work as a community development specialist for MSA Professional Services, an engineering and municipal consulting firm.

“Either way, I will be working for the good of Iowa,” said Judkins, a 1976 graduate of Washington High School in Vinton.

Christmas trees

Judkins recently celebrated an early thanksgiving with her Vinton family. While in town, she visited the Virginia Gay Hospital Tree Walk and bid on several trees. She was the high bidder for four trees and now is the owner of the Candy Kisses, Dr. Seuss, Birdhouse and Fishing Tree.

A couple of the trees will be set up in her house; one in the office of her husband; and one will be a gift to her daughter.

“We are really, really happy to support the hospital and we also support it privately,” says Judkins, who said she is lucky to have such beautiful and unique trees as part of her holiday season.

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Comments (1)

Hopefully the recount will be in your favor but either way, we're proud of you and the manner in which you campaigned. This country and state needs more candidates like you!
By: Jan McLeod on November 25th 8:34pm

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