High Stakes in State Senate Elections

Liz Mathis is sworn in as a member of the Iowa Senate by Senate President John Kibbie as her husband, Mark Mathis, holds two Bibles on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011, at Ohnward Bank and Trust in Marion. Mathis will fill a vacancy in Senate District 18 created by the resignation of Swati Dandekar, a Marion Democrat, when she accepted Republican Gov. Terry Branstad�s appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Ellen Kurt

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — While the presidential race is getting the most attention, a handful of state Senate races could determine whether Iowans get their most conservative state government in years and policy changes that will have a greater impact on their lives.

Republicans have launched an aggressive bid to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats. If Republicans pick up two seats and retain a majority in the House as expected, their party would control both houses of the General Assembly and the governor's office for the first time since 1998.

Republicans say they'll push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a law to require voters to show identification, and cuts for state workers' health care benefits. They are also campaigning on plans to reduce Iowa's commercial and industrial property taxes.

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