Senator Tom Harkin’s annual “Steak Fry” fundraiser included pitches for an Iowa Supreme Court justice who’s the target of a Republican-led anti-retention campaign — because of the court’s 2009 same-sex marriage ruling. 

Justice David Wiggins signed onto the court’s unanimous ruling which paved the way for same-sex marriage in Iowa. Iowans for Freedom — the group that successfully campaigned against three other justices in 2010 — is targeting Wiggins in this year’s retention election. The Iowa GOP’s chairman has urged a “no” vote on Wiggins. The first speaker of the afternoon at the Harkin Steak Fry was Zach Wahls, the 21-year-old Iowa City man who gained national attention for a 2011 statehouse speech about his two moms.

“There’s some folks here who are trying to use our retention process to scare and intimate Iowa judges and we can’t let that happen,” Wahls told the crowd gathered at the Warren County fairgrounds in Indianola.

Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky urged the crowd to vote a straight Democratic ticket — and vote to confirm all the judges whose names are listed on the back of November’s ballot.

“Straight D on the front, flip it over (and vote) ‘Yes.’ Straight D and Yes,” Dvorsky said, getting applause from the crowd. “And that will have a monumental effect on how we live in this state.”

Senator Harkin’s wife, Ruth, picked up the theme.

“Let me say once again, ‘We cannot go back,'” Ruth Harkin said. “…I want to remind all of you: Please, turn the ballot over and vote to retain Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins and our other justices.”

The three men Governor Branstad appointed to the court in 2011 to replace the three justices voted off the bench in 2010 are also on November’s retention ballot. Senator Harkin did not address the judicial retention election or the issue of same-sex marriage during his remarks, but Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, the keynote speaker, did.

“In a reflection of the goodness of the people that I have the honor to serve, this fall on our ballot — as we vote to reelect the president — we will also be voting for the Dream Act in Maryland and for marriage equality in Maryland,” O’Malley said, getting applause and cheers from the crowd.

O’Malley signed a bill into law on March 1st that legalized same-sex marriage, but Maryland voters will decide this November whether to uphold the law. Maryland is one of four states that have referendums on same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot. Third-two other state referendums on same-sex marriage have failed; none have passed.

AUDIO of Dvorsky & Wahls lead-off remarks at Harkin Steak Fry (runs 8:00)

AUDIO of remarks from Ruth & Tom Harkin (runs 27:00)

AUDIO of O’Malley’s remarks (runs 24:00)