Race That Could Change the Iowa Senate Comes to End Tuesday
By James Q. Lynch
MARION, Iowa A Linn County race that could change the balance of power in the Iowa Senate appears to be going down to the wire.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. today for voters to fill the vacancy in Iowa Senate 18, which wraps around northern and western Linn County.
Although a poll completed over the weekend suggests Senate Democrats will retain a 26-24 slight advantage, both Republican Cindy Golding and Democrat Liz Mathis continued knocking on doors and meeting with voters Monday.
For Golding, that included a rally with the Family Research Council Action's Values Voters Bus Tour and the National Organization for Marriage where she called on voters to make their decision on a "range of issues" rather than any one issue.
Golding and Mathis have insisted the election of a replacement to Marion Democrat Swati Dandekar is not a referendum on same-sex marriage – and issue that has been bottled up in the Iowa Senate.
"I want to encourage voters 'Don't vote on a single issue, vote on all of those other values that are important to you that make Iowa as great as it has been and as great as it can be in the future,'" Golding said Nov. 7.
"It is not a single issue, it is one of several issues that brings us together to change this state," she said.
While Golding supports allowing Iowans to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Mathis supports the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision striking down a state ban on same-sex marriage.
Mathis and Golding, both from Cedar Rapids, have spent most of their time talking about jobs creation, creating a better business environment and improving education in Iowa.
The Public Policy Poll showing Mathis with a 52 percent to 46 percent lead – with a 3.3 percent margin of error – found that same-sex marriage was the No. 1 issue of just was their most important issue.
While Golding was getting support from the Family Research Council Action and NOM, labor was working overtime for Mathis. A couple of days after Dandekar resigned to take a seat on the Iowa Utilities Board, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, rallied union members by saying a Democratic majority was needed to prevent a replay of Wisconsin Republicans' attempts to strip public employees' collective bargaining rights.
"We are Wisconsin," Gronstal said.
Mathis downplayed that, but the Iowa Federation of Labor has repeated that sentiment in calling on union members to volunteer for her campaign.
"We're counting on union members to win this race," Iowa Fed President Ken Sagar said in a union newsletter Nov. 6. "The stakes are very high. The future of collective bargaining rights in Iowa will likely come down to the state senate. This race could decide if Iowa politicians will launch attacks like we've seen in Ohio and Wisconsin."
Monday, Gov. Terry Branstad seemed to agree with the findings of the PPP poll.
"I think it's an uphill battle for the Republicans to win that seat," he said at his weekly news conference at the Capitol. That's because Mathis has an advantage because of her many years as an Eastern Iowa television anchorwoman, he said, and her campaign outspending Golding's.
There's a third candidate in the race. Constitution Party candidate Jon Tack is a senior lab tech at Schneider Electric in Cedar Rapids. He's a high school graduate who received technical and leadership training during his 14-year Navy career.
He and his wife, Rani, have three children and live in Hiawatha.
Absentee ballots may be hand-delivered to the Linn County Auditor's Elections Office, 2500 Edgewood Rd. SW, Cedar Rapids, until 9.m. today.
Senate 18 includes parts of Marion, Cedar Rapids and Walford as well as Fairfax, Palo, Hiawatha, Robins, Alburnett, Center Point, Walker, Central City, Coggon and Prairieburg.