Iowa Republicans Ask Voters to Remove Justice
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Republican Party of Iowa on Wednesday targeted another judge facing a retention vote, widening the party's effort to keep gay marriage in focus at a time when polls show the issue fading in the minds of voters more concerned about jobs and taxes.
State party chairman A.J. Spiker said voters should remove Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, one of seven justices who participated in the 2009 ruling that allowed same-sex marriage in Iowa. Spiker issued a statement on behalf of the party, criticizing the gay marriage decision based on what he calls the "whims of unelected activist judges attempting to impose their personal views on the public."
Iowa justices face a nonpartisan retention vote in the election following their appointment and every eight years after that. Voters cast a yes or no vote on the question of whether to retain the judge. A simple majority determines the outcome.
Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit were voted out in 2010 after an intense campaign by conservative Republicans and outside gay marriage opposition groups, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said she vehemently opposes the politicization of judicial selection by Republicans and out-of-state special interest groups which financed the anti-retention campaign in 2010 and will likely fund the effort this year.
"We are very concerned about the risk these out-of-state special interest groups are bringing to our state, and we will not sit quietly as they crusade to eliminate an independent judiciary and taint the entire democratic system," she said.
Gov. Terry Branstad named Thomas Waterman, Edward Mansfield and Bruce Zager to replace the three ousted judges, and those three along with Wiggins are on the ballot in November.
Only Wiggins, however, is the target of removal by Republicans who disagree with the court's unanimous opinion that a state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman violated the constitutional rights of equal protection. Wiggins said in a statement that he has always viewed the role of the courts as limited in a system built on checks and balances between independent branches of government.
"Two of the branches are designed to be political. It is unfortunate that Mr. Spiker apparently thinks that all three branches should be political," he said.
Chief Justice Mark Cady, Brent Appel and Daryl Hecht, who also participated in the 2009 ruling, are up for retention votes in 2016.
Iowa became the third of six states to legalize gay marriage, and about 4,500 gay couples have wed in the state since the ruling.
Spiker's announcement Wednesday surprised Susan Geddes, a Republican and social conservative organizer who worked for Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign in Iowa.
"I'm taken a little aback by it. If that's the route they want to take fine, but I'm not sure it's the rallying point," she said.
Geddes, who is managing a handful of GOP statehouse campaigns, said internal polling shows social issues such as gay marriage and abortion lag far behind economic issues when Iowans are asked what's most important to them.
"Maybe the point is they want to make sure certain groups of people aren't getting complacent," she said of the party.
A Des Moines Register poll in February showed 56 percent of Iowans opposed an amendment banning gay marriage, up slightly from a year earlier. The results tracked with the national trend.
Geddes said even church pastors she's talked to, who are typically passionate about social issues, are dealing with congregations struggling with unemployment and sluggish economy.
"Even the pastors behind a vote on this issue understand that when it comes to the big picture, you will not have people engaged in a social issue fight when they're working two or three jobs or trying to find a job. They just can't do it emotionally," she said.
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