February 9, 2016

Democrats retain 26-24 edge in Iowa Senate

Liz Mathis

Democrats have retained a two-seat advantage in the Iowa Senate. Voters in the Marion area elected a Democrat to an open senate seat, dashing Republican hopes of tossing the state senate into a tie with 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats.

The party break-down will remain 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans; a Democrat who had held the seat resigned to become a utility regulator in Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s administration.

Democrat Liz Mathis, a former television reporter and anchor in the area for three decades, won 56 percent of the vote and celebrated with supporters about an hour after the polls closed.  

“To friends here tonight, who came to help us out and who believed in me — I love you,” Mathis said, to cheers.

During an interview with Radio Iowa, Mathis said her campaign was “based on the concerns of voters.”

“People heard what the message was and they liked what they heard and they put their trust in me with a vote,” Mathis said.

Republican Cindy Golding, a small business owner and farmer, finished 12 points behind Mathis, with 44 percent. Voter Monica Marlin said she liked “a lot of the things” about Golding, the Republican candidate, but voted for Mathis, the Democrat, because she wants to keep same-sex marriage legal in Iowa. 

“It was the main thing,” Marlin said.

Republicans had hoped a victory might push the state senate closer to a vote on legislation that would set up a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Iowa. The senate’s current Democratic leader has blocked the measure since the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage.

An election-eve telephone “robo-call” into the district urged voters to call the Democratic candidate’s headquarters and ask Mathis “which homosexual acts she endorses.” Most of the noise about same-sex marriage came from outside group and neither Mathis nor Golding made the issue a cornerstone in their own campaign.  Mathis told Radio Iowa she has “no idea” what impact the issue had on the race.

“What I would like to think is we kept our message positive,” Mathis told Radio Iowa. “We didn’t stoop to any nastiness and I feel that the voters reacted to that.”

Voter Nancy Johnston said she received “a ton” of phone calls from both sides, but ultimately cast her ballot for the Republican because Democrats are “spending way too much money.”

“The taxpayers don’t have that much money any more,” Johnston said.

Golding has not responded to Radio Iowa’s request for an interview.

(This story was updated at 11:07 p.m.)

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