Patty Judge

Patty Judge, a Democrat and former Iowa lieutenant governor and agriculture secretary arrives in the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington,Tuesday, March 8, 2016, to join Democrats for their weekly policy luncheon. Democrats have met with a Judge who could make life miserable for the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Not President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, but rather Patty Judge, a Democrat who is challenging Grassley.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Patty Judge, a Democrat and former Iowa lieutenant governor and agriculture secretary arrives in the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington,Tuesday, March 8, 2016, to join Democrats for their weekly policy luncheon. Democrats have met with a Judge who could make life miserable for the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Not President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, but rather Patty Judge, a Democrat who is challenging Grassley. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Mitch McAndrew | mmcandrew@uiowa.edu

Just seven months before Election Day, Patty Judge made national headlines when she announced her bid for Iowa titan Sen. Chuck Grassley’s long-held seat.  

Touting herself as “the Judge Chuck Grassley can’t ignore,” the former Iowa lieutenant governor was looking to capitalize on Grassley’s controversial refusal to hold hearings for President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

Her bid quickly garnered national backing, which raised alarms among Judge’s opponents. The week after her announcement, Judge traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats.

Patty Judge Age: 72 Hometown: Fort Madison Education: Iowa Methodist School of Nursing, University of Iowa. Family: Husband, John; sons Douglass, Joe, and W. Dien.

Patty Judge
Age: 72
Hometown: Fort Madison
Education: Iowa Methodist School of Nursing, University of Iowa.
Family: Husband, John; sons Douglass, Joe, and W. Dien.

“Her campaign is a figment of the imagination of Harry Reid and the Democratic establishment in Washington,” said Robert Haus, Grassley’s campaign manager.

Her candidacy posed several challenges, the first and most obvious being the funds needed to defeat Grassley, a six-term senator with a reputation for stellar constituency services and work ethic.

Grassley has raised almost $6 million for his campaign this cycle, while Judge has raised just under $2 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Plus, Judge’s late entry into the race meant her campaign had to work fast.

“It compresses the whole timeline,” Sam Roecker, Judge’s campaign manager, said in April. “Instead of playing this out for a year or more, and thinking about our campaign structure and staff, she announced, and we had to start right away.”

Despite these challenges, the Senate race was pegged as “the race of [Grassley’s] life,” and a June 28  Loras College poll that showed Grassley, who usually enjoys double digit spreads over his opponents, just 1 percentage point ahead of Judge.

The poll interviewed 600 likely voters from June 24-28, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

But over the summer, Grassley widened his spread significantly. One Oct. 6 poll from the Des Moines Register showed Grassley with a 17 percentage point lead over Judge amongst the 642 likely voters surveyed. The poll had a margin of error of 3.9 percent.  

In 1999, Judge won her first statewide election to become Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, where she served until she was elected Iowa Lieutenant Governor in 2006 with former Gov. Chet Culver.

She was ousted from the Iowa capitol just four years later, when Republican  Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds won 90 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Before her political career, Judge worked as a nurse in public health and a farm appraiser in Southern Iowa. As a nurse, she developed the first utilization review program for Monroe County Hospital. She was also a mediator during the 1980s farm crisis for the Iowa Farmer Creditor Mediation Service.