A special election for a seat in the Iowa legislature is drawing national attention, as the outcome of Tuesday’s voting will decide the political balance of power in the state senate.
Democrats occupy 25 of the 50 seats in the Iowa Senate; Republicans hold the other 24. In September, a Democrat from Marion, resigned from her post in the state senate to take a job as a utility regulator in Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s administration. If the Republican candidate in the senate race wins, the Iowa Senate will be thrown into a 25-25 tie.
“We’re talking about one out of 50 senate districts in Iowa where the candidates are pretty much pitching themselves as responsive to local concerns, yet what’s at stake is party control of the Iowa Senate, so if you’re a voter, do you take that into account?” asks Bruce Nesmith, a political science professor at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. “Do you vote for the person who you think is best for the office, or do you realize your vote has statewide implications — at least for a year?”
Cindy Golding, a small business owner and farmer, secured the GOP’s nomination in the district over a candidate favored by the state’s Republican governor. Liz Mathis, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the state senate seat, was a television anchor in the area for 30 years.
“The pitches from each candidate have been on their capabilities…a lot on economic issues, which seems pretty pertinent,” Nesmith says. “At the same time, there’s been a lot of outside money, on both sides, and activity on the gay rights issue.”
Conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage are sending their “Values Voter” bus into the district today. Connie Mackey, president of the Family Research Council’s political action committee, says it’s a nationally significant race.
“If the Republicans can take that seat, then it opens up the debate that’s been shut down,” Mackey says.
The senate’s Democratic leader has refused to allow debate of a measure that would give Iowans a chance to vote on a state constitutional amendment which would ban same-sex marriage, saying he doesn’t want to write discrimination into the constitution.