There were two rallies on the statehouse grounds this morning, organized by groups on the opposite sides in Iowa’s judicial retention election. Three Iowa Supreme Court justices have been targeted for removal by critics of the court’s ruling on gay marriage.

Former Republican Lieutenant Governor Art Neu of Carroll kicked off the first rally just after nine o’clock. It was organized by a group called “Fair Courts for US.” 

“What started out as targeting three Supreme Court justices has escalated into the single-most dangerous threat to public safety and the function of our courts in Iowa history,” Neu said. “Organizations sponsoring the statewide ‘Judge Bus’ tour are calling for Iowans to remove all 74 judges who are up for retention November 2.”

Then, just over half an hour later, Republican Congressman Steve King kicked off the second rally, held in front of the “Judge Bus” which features huge pictures of the three Iowa Supreme Court justices on the ballot this fall, and the word “NO” over each image.

“We’re not saying remove all 74 of them. We’re saying these three: Ternus, Streit and Baker,” King said. “They’re the ones that are up. They’re the ones that you have the constitutional right to vote on.” King mentioned the names of two other district court judges who have ruled on gay marriage cases, one of which is on the ballot this year. 

Tamara Scott, state director of the Concerned Women of America, called the three Supreme Court justices “black-robed bandits.”

“We in the heartland have been taken hostage and we resent it,” Scott said during this morning’s rally. “This is the process that’s been in place for quite some time. How does utilizing the process politicize the system?”

The bus tour will make stops in 20 different Iowa cities this week. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage is leading the bus tour. “I want to start out by making clear the historical significance of what is about to happen in Iowa. The whole country is looking at you,” Brown said this morning. “This cannot be overstated.”

Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, a Democrat, spoke at the “vote yes” rally, saying justice in Iowa should not be for sale. “I don’t believe that out-of-state special interest groups riding around Iowa in a bus with Montana plates presuming they know what is best for Iowans have considered at all the full impact of their actions,” Campbell said. “On the other hand, why do they have to?  They won’t be here after November 3, but the rest of us will.”

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin attended the first rally this morning. Harkin told reporters afterwards he was there to show his support for the three justices.

“Iowans just have to realize what a dangerous precipice we’re on with this endeavor to remove these justices, not for malfeasance, not for anything bad, but because they disagree with a way they decided a case,” Harkin said.  “That could throw the state of Iowa into turmoil for years to come.”  

Listen to the 9 a.m. “vote yes” rally: capvoteyes

Listen to the 9:30 a.m. “vote no” rally: capjudgebus