A three-member panel of state officials will decide today whether an eastern Iowa congressman will face a primary opponent in June. 

State Senator Joe Seng, a Democrat from Davenport, hopes to challenge Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack’s bid for reelection, but two attorneys have picked through Seng’s nominating petitions, finding a raft of problems — things like the signature of a known felon, signatures from at least eight residents of Illinois, plus instances where a husband or wife signed their spouses name along with their own.

These details are important, because the three-member panel reviewing this case could rule some or all of those signatures are invalid — reducing the number of petition signatures Seng collected in key counties. That could disqualify Seng from the June ballot. Attorney Jeff Link cited one instance where just the name Angie had been written on a petition.

“There’s no way to verify this at all,” Link said during Tuesday evening’s hearing. “You can’t just search for the name Angie.”

Seng’s attorney admitted people who collected signatures on Seng’s behalf may have not followed all the rules, like getting the correct name and address of everyone who signed the petitions.

“The absence of a specific house number and street, although certainly would be more desirable, we don’t think is grounds for the omission of that signature,” he said.

Seng made a brief personal appeal to the three-member review board that will decide his fate.

“It would be not maybe a travesty,” he said, “but I was very close on these counties.” To run for congress,

Seng needed to collect a minimum amount of signatures in 12 of the 24 counties in the congressional district. In Wayne County, for instance, Seng needs to have 16 valid signatures — and there’s a question of whether he can meet that threshold if the review panel decides to throw out just a couple of the signatures — from people who lived in another county. Link, the attorney who presented a long list of alleged problems with the petitions, urged the panel to follow the letter of the law and declare Seng had not qualified for the primary ballot.

“Our review of these petitions show this was a scatter-gun effort, at best,” Link said.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Attorney General Tom Miller and Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins make up the review board for this case and they spent more than two hours Tuesday night hearing the testimony. They’ll issue a decision sometime today.

Part of this drama involves a handful of signatures collected at a bar called the Fibbin’ Fisherman Lounge in Corydon. The Ottumwa veterinarian who was in the establishment to get those signatures for Seng has said he had to buy “many rounds of drinks” to get people to sign those petitions.

AUDIO of the hearing’s opening and a discussion of petition signatures in Wayne County.

AUDIO of discussion of petititon signatures in Wapello County.

AUDIO of discussion of petition signatures in Scott County.

AUDIO of closing discussion among Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, chair of the panel; Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz & Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins.