While most of the campaigning in Iowa this time of year involves presidential candidates, an unusual state Senate campaign is heating up in eastern Iowa — drawing statewide and national attention. Democrat Liz Mathis and Republican Cindy Golding are competing for a seat left vacant by a Democrat senator who took another job.

They are also competing on a larger scale for senate control with the current split of 25-25 among the parties. Mathis is a public affairs administrator for a human services agency and also a former TV news anchor, who admits the admits the campaign intensity is a bit challenging.

Mathis says,”Well, I think my opponent is also a neophyte — so that’s a level playing field — she’s never held an elected office either.” But Golding isn’t new to politics as she ran ten years ago against current House-Speaker Kraig Paulson, and says she isn’t a stranger to the statehouse.

“For 25 years I have been a volunteer going to Des Moines working on community issues when we needed to work on education funding, when we were worried about condemnation issues, we were worried about real estates taxes and how property taxes might be affected at the state level ,” Goldring says. “I’ve been down there as a volunteer and a concerned citizen. And I really believe that I can do a better job on the inside than standing on the outside trying to get my message heard.”

Mathis says her current job often puts her at the legislature advocating for kids and families, and before that she questioned politicians as a journalist. “So I have been an observer and I’ve admired, I’ve respected some parts of it, and then I’ve been horrified at some things that I’ve seen…in politics,” Mathis says.

Mathis worked for two eastern Iowa television stations, and Goldring admits that gives Mathis the edge in name recognition in a short campaign. “But the problem I see with that is people know that she’s reported their stories, but they don’t know where she stands on issues,” Goldring says, “and that I think is as much a difficulty for hear as it is for me to overcome her name recognition.”

The issues are one reason so many people are interested in the race as a Republican win would help them bring up issues that have been blocked by Democrat control. One issue is gay marriage, but Mathis is avoiding discussion of the issue in her campaign.

“In the 400-plus calls that I’ve made to the constituents in District 18, not one person, not one, has asked me what my stance is on gay marriage,” Mathis says, “I think this is a lot of media hype over what is important to people in District 18. She says the things she’s hearing about are business growth, better jobs, and education.

When pressed, the Democrat candidate Mathis limits her comments to supporting the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision declaring Iowa’s law banning same sex marriage as unconstitutional. Republican candidate Golding says the entire subject is limiting Iowa.

Goldring says her personal stance is not the issue. “I believe the issue is that the people of Iowa need to vote on it and we need to put the issue to rest, because it is a very divisive issue and we have so many issues in this state that are much more important for our economy, for the families, for business, that this issue needs to be put to rest,” Golding says. She says we need to vote on it and get on with business.

The importance of the election has brought in a lot of money from outside the Marion and rural Linn County area where the voters reside. But both candidates say they are trying to keep the election local. The election is November 8th.