© Newton Daily News, 2014
Jon Van Wyk's campaign for Iowa House District 28 lasted nine days. After objections were raised about his candidacy as a result of his declaring a Sully business as his home, he announced Wednesday afternoon he was dropping out of the race.
The Newton Daily News was prepared to publish an article Thursday that showed Van Wyk was still living in the Polk County portion of Clive in the western suburbs of Des Moines. He admitted he was living there, but also claimed his parents' business in Sully was his "legal residence."
Van Wyk, a Republican, was poised to face first-term incumbent State Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Chariton) in the June 3 primary. But, when the Office of Secretary of State published its list of candidates for state and federal offices last weekend, it listed Van Wyk's home address as 802 Fourth St. in Sully.
That address belongs to Van Wijk Winery, which the candidate's parents own and operate in the former Sully Community Church. As featured in the January issue of Jasper County Living, the former church has been converted into a gathering place where the Van Wyks can market their wines and host receptions.
Van Wyk need not be a resident of House District 28 to run in the primary election. Sarah Reisetter, Director of Elections for the Office of Secretary of State, said state law requires only that candidates for office be residents of Iowa for one year.
"A candidate doesn't have to live in the district to be a candidate on the ballot for the primary," she said. "But, they must have been moved into the district by the 60-day mark before the election, which in this case is early September."
48A.5A(2) of the Code of Iowa also states a candidate may not list a commercial address, unless it is his or her "primary nighttime residence." In an interview Tuesday with the Daily News, Van Wyk said his move to Sully is "presently underway."
At Van Wyk's request, the interview was conducted via email.
"This move to Sully is taking place presently, as I just finished the construction on the bedroom and bathroom at the winery's residence," he said. "This is a temporary and transitional situation for me as we go through the process of selling and buying houses."
Six citizens had filed objections to his candidacy with the Office of Secretary of State. They were Beth Stearns of Lacona, David Hendricks of Chariton, Donald Zoutte of Knoxville, Norman Rozendaal of Monroe, Roger Barr of Newton, and Timothy Galeazzi of Knoxville.
Wednesday was the last day a candidate could withdraw from the election process. A staffer at the Office of Secretary of State confirmed Van Wyk had filed an official withdrawal. He then announced his withdrawal on his campaign's Facebook page shortly after 1:30 p.m.:
Running for Iowa House District 28 has been a pleasure, not to mention a great learning experience this election cycle. Although I am within the letter of the law for my candidacy in HD28, I do not want my first run for office to be marred by questions and concerns of residency malfeasance.
I want my candidacy to be above reproach so that the focus of the campaign can be on substantive issues relevant to Iowans. If I am going to assert that I will be a shrewd and tactical legislator, I must first demonstrate that I can be a shrewd and tactical candidate.
As such, I have made the decision to [withdraw] my name from the primary election on June 3rd, and amend the organization of my Candidate's Committee for the 2016 election cycle. I will continue to fundraise and network with those inside the Republican Party in order to come out strong in 2016.
In the meantime, my family will focus on our move from Clive to Sully, as well as expanding wine production at our winery in Sully. I want to thank those of you who have supported me thus far, and look forward to continuing our conversations as we look to 2016.
Van Wyk's Affidavit of Candidacy includes a signed affirmation, which was notarized by an Office of Secretary of State employee, Danijela Cejvan-Lokmic, when he filed his nomination paperwork on March 10. The first sentence of the affirmation states, "I swear (or affirm) that the information provided on this form is correct."
Reisetter said listing the Sully address on that form, or as his home address on his nomination papers — which are petition forms that voters sign to support his candidacy — could constitute third-degree election misconduct, a serious misdemeanor, if it is proved he knowingly put an address on the forms that was not his actual home address. It does not appear Secretary of State Matt Schultz will seek prosecution.
Because of his withdrawal from the race, the Office of Secretary of State has announced there will be no hearing into the legality of Van Wyk's candidacy. However, there remains the matter of challenges to his voter registration by Barr and Gabriel Swersie of Newton.
Their objections were based on grounds Van Wyk does not live at the Sully address and that he provided false information on the voter registration form.
Voter registration information is a matter of public record, but access to that information is tightly controlled by Iowa law. Voter registration forms, once submitted, remain in the custody of the County Auditor’s Office and cannot be removed or photocopied.
In response to questions from the Daily News, Deputy Auditor for Elections Tina Mulgrew confirmed that Van Wyk had registered to vote in Jasper County, using the Sully address on the form as "the address where you live.” He listed the Clive address as his former residence.
Mulgrew said the form had been time and date stamped before it was received by the Office of Secretary of State on March 10. It was received three days later at the Jasper County Auditor's Office.
The form had been signed March 3.
At the signature line, the form includes two warnings that providing false information constitutes perjury, which is a Class D felony in Iowa. By signing the form, Van Wyk was affirming the Sully address as the place where he lives.
One of the warnings on the document explains the potential penalties of providing false information on the document:
If you sign this form and you know the information is not true, you may be convicted of perjury and fined up to $7,500 and/or jailed for up to 5 years.
In his interview with the Daily News on Tuesday, Van Wyk said he was in the process of selling the home in Clive and finding a Sully home for his entire family to move into.
"Our winery's license to manufacture wine was moved to the Sully location only two weeks ago, and we received our first shipment of 3,000 bottles over the weekend," he said. "Our first shipment of juice is scheduled to arrive later this week, and we will begin the process of producing our first wines in Sully."
According to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division, Van Wijk Winery's Class C Native Wine permit was approved last Thursday. Additionally, the license states ownership of Van Wijk Winery is entirely held by Van Wyk’s parents. In his interview Tuesday, Van Wyk confirmed he was not yet living there.
Van Wyk said the building is owned by a holding company, Van Wyk Investments, in which he is one-third owner.
Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott said this was the first challenge to a voter registration he had ever dealt with. He became Auditor in January 2005. He said, based on the challenge process laid out in state law, a public hearing will be held to determine the status of Van Wyk's registration.
"We will hear from both sides. They can each present evidence or witnesses," he said. "Then, after [weighing] a preponderance of the evidence, we will issue a written ruling."
County Attorney Mike Jacobsen and Mulgrew will also take part in the hearing. In accordance with 48A.14 of the Code of Iowa, the hearing must take place between April 8 and 18.
Prior to Van Wyk’s withdrawal from the race, Parrott said the matters of objections to his candidacy and challenges to his voter registration are considered two separate matters independent of one another. While those challenging the registration may withdraw their challenges, there is nothing a voter can do to nullify the process outlined in state law.