A special election will be held in the state senate district where the Republican candidate on November’s ballot has died.

State Senator Pat Ward of Clive died Monday of cancer. Secretary of State Matt Schultz says votes cast in the General Election for Ward will be counted, but it not be “canvassed” as an official election, and a special election will be held on December 11 to fill the seat.

“There’ll be an automatic special election,” Schultz says. “The Democratic candidate will continue to be the candidate in the special election. Republicans will have to nominate somebody.”

It won’t be the state party or county GOP officials who nominate someone, however. Republican precinct committee members who live in senate district 22 must meet to select a candidate to replace Ward. 

“This is a senate district that’s part of Polk County and Dallas County,” Schultz says. “So, obviously, they have to break it up between precincts.”

Democrat Desmund Adams has been running in the district since this past spring. District lines throughout the state were redrawn in 2011, based on the 2010 census data. Ward moved from West Des Moines into Clive to run in the newly-configured district that includes parts of Clive, Waukee, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights.  Ward won a Republican primary this past June to be the GOP nominee in the district.

The secretary of state says Ward was a “dynamic and caring public servant.” A number of politicians, including Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have issued statements of sympathy to Ward’s family. Ward attended some of Romney’s Iowa campaign rallies this past year.

Also on Monday, news came of the death of Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal’s son-in-law. Dennis Sigafoose died unexpectedly. Sigafoose and the senator’s daughter, Kate Gronstal, were married in March of 2011. 

“Today has been a sad day of tragic loss in the ‘family’ of the Iowa Senate,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, the wife of Senator Bob Dvorsky, said in a written statement. “Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families and friends of Senator Ward and Senator Gronstal. For the rest of us, this may be an opportunity to reflect that each public servant is also someone’s wife, or dad, or daughter, or grandfather.  Each of them who makes the decision to serve their neighbors does so at some expense to spending time with the people that are closest to them. Today seems like a time to remind ourselves of that.”