UPDATE: A special election will be held in Senate District 22 on Dec. 11 to fill the Iowa Senate vacancy created by the death of a central Iowa legislator on Monday.
Sen. Pat Ward, R-West Des Moines, 55, passed away Monday after a prolonged battle with cancer. She was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2004, was an assistant GOP leader at the time of her death and was seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 general election.
“This is truly a sad day for Iowa,” said Senate GOP Leader Jerry Behn of Boone. “Sen. Pat Ward was a courageous fighter not just for the hard-working Iowans she represented tirelessly every day in the Iowa Senate, but also a courageous fighter in her battle against cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with her husband John and her entire family and friends. The Iowa Senate Republicans lost a terrific colleague and incredible friend and we mourn her loss deeply.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, praised Ward as a legislator who stood up for what she believed in and worked across party lines on behalf of her constituents. “Pat will be missed,” he added.
Gov. Terry Branstad expressed “shock and sadness” over Ward’s passing.
“She had a wonderful career in public service, and was such a caring and passionate person,” the governor said in a statement. “As a senator, she was a champion for her district, took the time to get to know the issues, and worked in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of her constituents.
“She always had a positive outlook on life, even in illness, and her smile would brighten each room she entered. The thoughts and prayers of Chris and I are extended to her large network of family, friends and constituents,” Branstad added.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who served in the Senate with Ward before she left to run for lieutenant governor in 2010, said Ward was a dear friend and the news of her passing was “incredibly difficult and painful to hear.”
“Having served with Pat in the Senate, I witnessed firsthand her dedication to the state of Iowa, and her incredible work every day on behalf of her constituents,” Reynolds said. “I hope all Iowans will look at her example, the way she cared for others and worked to make the world a better place, and remember her significant life and achievements. Our administration will miss her as a policy maker, and we all will personally miss her as a friend.”
Senate GOP officials said funeral arrangements were being made, but no other information was available Monday. Ward is survived by her husband, John, and two children.
Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald said the Iowa Code spells out that Ward’s name will stay on the Nov. 6 ballot, along with Democratic challenge Desmund Adams. However, he said the counts will be tabulated but not canvassed – a process that makes the ballots official.
Instead, the Republican Party will hold a special nominating convention to name a GOP candidate in Senate District 22, which includes parts of Polk and Dallas counties, to face Adams in the Dec. 11 special election, he said. The deadline for the Republican Party to submit a name to appear on the special election ballot is 5 p.m. Nov. 13.
A.J. Spiker, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, issued a statement expressing his sadness over Ward’s passing, saying “public service and dedication to the people of Iowa were hallmarks of her career.” Likewise, Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky, whose husband is a state senator, called Ward’s passing a loss for the whole Iowa Senate family. “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Ward’s family and friends, as well as the many constituents and community members she served in both her public and private life,” she said.
Ward won a special election in 2004 that was held to fill the seat being vacated by Senate President Mary Kramer, who was named ambassador to Barbados.
Born and raised in Missouri, Ward received her bachelor’s degree from Central Missouri State University. She served as a director of public and government relations for an electric utility company in Illinois as was the former director of the Senate Republican Caucus staff.