Two former Iowa governors suggest Iowans may mistakenly think that by voting “no” on three Iowa Supreme Court justices, they’ll somehow be undoing the court’s ruling on gay marriage.
Former Governor Robert Ray, a Republican, says he hopes Iowa voters consider the damage that could be done to the courts if the justices aren’t retained.
“To throw somebody out of office because you don’t like some opinion is very foolish and I think Iowans are much better thinkers than that,” Ray said. “So I hope that they don’t make that mistake.”
Former Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, says the effort to defeat the justices could have an impact on future decisions.
“The one thing we don’t want to have is a process which creates a chilling effect on the capacity of judges to decide cases impartially,” Vilsack says.
Bob Vander Plaats is a spokesman for the group which is leading the “vote no” charge against the justices. He says the retention election gives Iowans a way to address an “out-of-control” court.
“This is an activist court on steroids,” Vander Plaats said this weekend on Iowa Public Television. “We need to hold them accountable.”
An “Iowa Poll” published in The Des Moines Sunday Register found 37 percent of those surveyed will vote to dump all three justices off the bench, while 34 percent would vote to let all three keep their jobs. Vilsack and Ray spoke late Sunday afternoon in a teleconference with Iowa reporters that was organized by Fair Court for Us, a group that’s backing the justices.
“I think one of the problems that we face is that people have a negative attitude about government right now,” Ray said. “They’re dissatisfied and unhappy, and they’re likely to vote ‘no’ without thinking it through thoroughly.”
Vilsack and Ray are both lawyers. Republican Terry Branstad, another former governor who is also a lawyer, has refused to say whether he’ll vote to retain or reject the judges and he did so again Sunday afternoon.
“I have not taken a position on that. I think people should vote their own convictions on those issues,” Branstad said during an interview in Winterset. “I’m running for governor of Iowa and the people in Iowa are concerned about jobs and that’s been my focus from the git-go.”
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty campaigned with Branstad Sunday and Pawlenty disagreed with the message from former Governors Vilsack and Ray.
“I think anybody who says that, you know, voters don’t know what they’re doing are being disrespectful to the voters of Iowa, or Minnesota, or the country and people are smart and they make good decisions and I think you have to trust the public,” Pawlenty said. “The founding document of this country starts out with the phrase ‘We, the People.’ It doesn’t start out with the phrase ‘We, the Judges,’ or ‘We, the Elite,’ or ‘We, the Know-It-Alls.’ It says, ‘We, the People,’ and so I trust the people. They’ll make a good decision as to who to put in office or, frankly, who to remove from office.”
Pawlenty and his wife are lawyers. Mary Pawlenty is a former district court judge.