Republican Bob Vander Plaats says he was a “bystander” in the last campaign to oust an Iowa judge who issued a ruling connected to the gay marriage issue, but Vander Plaats announced Friday he plans to run a well-financed campaign this fall to oust three of the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.
Those justices joined the 2009 ruling that Iowa marriage licenses should be issued to gay and lesbian couples.
2004 was the last time an Iowa judge faced an organized challenge in a retention election. Sioux City District Court Judge Jeff Neary granted a divorce to a couple who had obtained a civil union in Vermont, but the effort to kick him off the bench failed. Vander Plaats, a businessman from Sioux City who ran for governor in 2002, 2006 and 2010, says he wasn’t involved in that 2004 effort.
“I think the difference between the Judge Neary retention vote…and this retention vote in 2010 (is) I think the people of Iowa and the people all across this country are saying, ‘The courts are taking too much power,'” Vander Plaats says.
The names of three Iowa Supreme Court Justices will be on the November ballot, in a retention election. “And the way you hold a court in check is you terminate people who make decisions that are not theirs to make,” Vander Plaats said Friday during a news conference on a sidewalk near the Iowa Judicial Building.
Carolyn Jenison is executive director of “One Iowa,” a group which supports the court’s ruling on gay marriage. Her group does not plan to launch a campaign in support of the justices, to counter the Vander Plaats effort. “Is this just to be spiteful, because they don’t agree with one ruling?” Jamison asked. “…I think our judicial system…is free and clear, fair and impartial.”
Vander Plaats has not yet endorsed his rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Terry Branstad, the winner’s of the June 8th Primary, issued a brief statement Friday, praising Vander Plaats for his “passion” on the issue. Chet Culver, the Democrat who is seeking a second term as governor in November, also issued a statement, saying he opposes the idea of kicking the three justices off the Supreme Court. Culver said he “opposes any effort to make choosing judges more political (and) more ideological.”