Chuck Grassley

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks about the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy during a town hall-style meeting Tuesday March 29, 2016, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. Sioux City Journal photo by Bret Hayworth

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks about the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy during a town hall-style meeting Tuesday March 29, 2016, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. Sioux City Journal photo by Bret Hayworth

By Mitch McAndrew | mmcandrew@uiowa.edu

Back in March, things could have been troublesome for longtime Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.  

Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, became the center of national attention when he announced that he would not hold hearings for President Obama’s pick to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Soon after, former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge announced she would challenge Grassley, and her name recognition across the Hawkeye state as well as her demonstrated ability to win statewide Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and lieutenant governor elections spelled a competitive race. 

Chuck Grassley Age: 83 Hometown: New Hartford Education: Iowa State Teacher’s College (Now University of Northern Iowa) B.A. and M.A. Family: Wife, Barbara; children Lee, Wendy, Robin, Michele, Jay

Chuck Grassley
Age: 83
Hometown: New Hartford
Education: Iowa State Teacher’s College (Now University of Northern Iowa) B.A. and M.A.
Family: Wife, Barbara; children Lee, Wendy, Robin, Michele, Jay

Judge made waves when she announced her candidacy amid mounting criticism from state and national opponents on Grassley’s position, and it seemed as though she had Grassley on the ropes.

The senator has since met with Obama’s pick, judge Merrick Garland, but has held strong on his promise, contending that he is giving the people a voice in filling the Supreme Court vacancy.

Grassley’s campaign has countered Judge’s charges that Washington has “changed” him into a hardline partisan by emphasizing his attendance record and legislative efforts over his many years in Congress.

In 35 years, Grassley has missed just 36 of 12,221 roll call votes, according to Govtrack.us, a website that keeps tabs on members of Congress. He has not missed a vote since 1993, the longest voting streak in the Senate.

Grassley has also sponsored more than 1,700 bills and amendments in the Senate.

According to his voting record, 23 percent of the bills Grassley has sponsored deal with health care. Crime and law enforcement bills constitute 18 percent of his sponsored bills, and education makes up 15 percent.

No one has come closer to defeating Grassley than in his first U.S. Senate race in 1981, when Democratic incumbent John Culver lost by some 101,000 votes.

One June poll from Loras College had Grassley with a 1-point lead on Judge, well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points and slimmer than any spread the senator has faced in his 35 years in the Senate (vet that).

But as the summer wore on, Grassley’s controversial role in the Supreme Court nomination largely faded from the headlines, and the gap between him and his rival widened.

In one Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted from Oct. 3-6, Grassley had a 17-point lead over Judge, 53 percent to 36 percent, among 800 surveyed adults, 642 of whom were likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus of minus 3.5 percentage points.