Pro-retention Supporters Say Election Is Victory for Fair and Impartial Courts

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

The Supreme Court courtroom in the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines.

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa - Pro-retention supporters said the citizens have spoken and rejected the "harmful and ill conceived" efforts of the anti-retention campaign against Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.

Iowa State Bar Association President Cynthia Moser of Des Moines said she applauds the decision to retain Wiggins and all the 78 justices and judges, saying it shows Iowans want to maintain fair and impartial courts and are confident in the merit selection and retention system.

About 94 percent of the precincts early Wednesday reported Wiggins with 641,283 "Yes" votes to 539,285 "No" votes. Justices Edward Mansfield, Thomas Waterman and Bruce Zager each had more than 780,000 "Yes" votes.

Conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats said he believes the people of Iowa are the winners even though the votes didn't remove Wiggins from the bench.

“Iowans know judicial activism when they see it, thanks to the retention efforts in both 2010 and 2012,” Vander Plaats said. "Iowans know more about judicial retention than any other time in history and have established the template to hold activist judges accountable.”

Vander Plaats said more people voted "No" in this election than in 2010, which proves the message resonated with the voters.

This was the second anti-retention campaign led by Vander Plaats and special interest groups after the first campaign in 2010 successfully ousted Justices David Baker, Marsha Ternus and Michael Streit over the Varnum opinion, which ruled the state's Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it failed to provide equal protection for all and that led to legalizing same-sex marriage.

Baker said he was pleased that the majority of voters were determined to keep politics out of the courts and to keep the courts fair and impartial.

"I think the vote also reflects a better understanding of the Varnum decision, both what it means and that the decision was the right decision under Iowa’s equal protection clause," Baker said. "As reflected in the states where same-sex marriage is on the ballot, I also think more people are accepting the concept that same sex couples are entitled to the rights and benefits of civil marriage."

Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, said she believes this vote shows views are shifting about same-sex marriage, and Iowans didn't buy into Vander Plaats' campaign as a way to punish Wiggins for the Varnum ruling. She commended Wiggins for not campaigning and politicizing his position under the pressure of special interest groups.

"It was a good night," Red Wing said. "This was the first time Maryland and Maine voted to legalize same-sex marriage. I think all of this, a combination of this election and others around the country have shifted views. This was about Varnum."

Red Wing said she thinks the education provided by Justice Not Politics and the bar association helped Iowans understand the ruling and the merit selection and retention process.

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