Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack will face a primary challenger on the June ballot. A three-member panel has ruled state Senator Joe Seng, a Democrat from Davenport, collected enough petition signatures to qualify for the primary election — but just barely.

“It really sounded bad that I have a felon and people from Illinois and stuff like that, but that happens in every one,” Seng told reporters after the decision.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is one of the three panel members who voted late this afternoon to confirm that Seng’s name is to be printed on the ballots in the second congressional district.

“In no way does our decision change the fact that, you know, Senator Seng probably should have been more organized,” Schulz told reporters after the decision was announced. “But in his case it was a close call.”

Paul McAndrew, the attorney who filed the challenge questioning Seng’s petitions, suggests the decision is inconsistent with the Republican secretary of state’s call for requiring Iowans to show a photo I-D when they vote.

“We are continuing to allow lesser protections and safeguards in this setting while we shout that we have to protect the election hall,” McAndrew said via phone during the panel’s meeting this afternoon.

Schultz replied that previous decisions from this review panel set a precedent to follow.

“I feel comfortable, especially when we’re talking about kicking somebody off the ballot,” said Schultz, who was serving on the panel for the first time. “…I think this is a reasonable decision by this panel.”

Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins, another member of the review panel, said previous opinions from the state’s attorney general indicate officials should grant a certain amount of “flexibility” to candidates and their supporters who’re collecting nominating petitions. “Which I think is beneficial because it’s not a full-time occupation to run for office,” Jenkins said.

Attorney General Tom Miller, the third member of the panel and its chairman, suggested that rather than an IRS-like approach that requires strict interpretation of the rules, this group in the past has granted candidates the benefit of the doubt.

“That model has the value of respecting the democratic process and being somewhat favorable, deferential to someone having access to the ballot,” Miller said, by phone, during today’s proceedings.

AUDIO of review panel’s proceedings.

State law requires prospective candidates to collect a minimum number of petition signatures in 12 of the 24 counties in the congressional district.  (The minimum number is at least two percent of the number of votes cast in the last primary election.)

The panel decided to count a few pages of petition signatures that had previously been tossed out because the top portion — listing Seng’s name, where he was from and what office he was seeking — hadn’t been completely filled out. That qualified Seng in the 12 counties he needed. The decision also avoided a debate over whether a group of signatures collected after “many rounds of drinks” at the Fibbin’ Fisherman Lounge in Corydon would be counted.