It’s not just the races for president, congress and the state legislature that have generated attention and debate this year in Iowa.
The group that successfully ousted three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010 regrouped this year, aiming to oust another justice who joined the court’s 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.
Bob Vander Plaats is chairman of Iowans for Freedom and leading the “vote no” effort against Justice David Wiggins.
“The people of Iowa held those three justices to account,” Vander Plaats says. “The other four we thought should have duly resigned, but now it’s time to hold Wiggins (to) account.”
Guy Cook is president-elect of the Iowa State Bar Association and he’s urging Iowans to vote yes for Wiggins.
“A vote no on Wiggins doesn’t do anything,” Cook says. “..It doesn’t change the constitution. It doesn’t change the ruling…It doesn’t do anything but retaliate against a man doing his job.”
A couple of Iowa business executives have weighed in on this retention vote, too. Patrick Baird, the retired president and CEO of AEGON USA, a financial services firm in Cedar Rapids, joined the president of the Principal Financial Group in publicly speaking out against the campaign Vander Plaats is waging.
“They’ve decided to bring money in from outside the state. They’ve decided to bring in politicians from outside the state and they’ve decided to make this a political issue on the retention vote,” Baird said recently on Iowa Public Radio. “And that squarely, for the first time, introduces politics into the Iowa judiciary and it’s very wreckless and very dangerous.”
Vander Plaats counters that Iowans in 2010 decided to reign in an “activist” court.
“We’re not about protecting the system. We’re about defending the constitution,” Vander Plaats says. “…We’re saying the constition speaks clearly on this and I believe Iowans did what was right in 2010 and I think they’re doing what’s right today.”
More than six dozen Iowa judges are up for retention on this year’s ballot, including the Iowa Supreme Court Justice at the center of this debate, along with the three new justices Governor Branstad appointed to the Supreme Court in 2011.
Iowa judges and justices are chosen through a “merit selection process.” A 15-member Judicial Nominating Commission interviews prospects and then recommends three to the governor, who then chooses one of the three for the opening. A judge or justice must stand for retention in the next closest statewide election after their appointment, then must stand for retention every eight years after that.