MARION, Iowa – Senate District 18 has about 60,000 people within it and 30,000 registered voters.
Yet, this is a race that is drawing statewide attention. Democrats hold a 25-24 edge after last month's resignation of Democrat Swati Dandekar. A Republican victory in the November 8th Special Election would even the balance in the Senate and allow republicans to bring more legislation to the senate floor for debate.
Those are the stakes and also why we're seeing plenty of TV, Radio and Internet ads - rare for a State Senate race. Democrat Liz Mathis will try to keep the majority for the Democrats. She works with the non-profit agency "Four Oaks" in Cedar Rapids, primarily with children's issues.
Republican Cindy Golding is a Cedar Rapids businesswoman with multiple companies. She's also the co-chair of the Linn County Republicans.
And in a televised debate on KCRG 9.2 hosted by KCRG-TV9 and the Gazette Wednesday night, it became clear how intense and personal this race has become.
The candidates did not hold back on three key issues that popped up multiple times during the debate: education, job growth and business regulation.
"Government should be there for protection," said Golding, "government should not micro-manage our lives."
The Republican candidate stood firm on a need for a reduction in property-tax, something republicans could not push through both the house and senate. Golding also called for a loosening of regulations on Iowa businesses and argued there is too much money being poured into schools without results - citing declining test scores but an increase in funding over the last several years.
"The democratic party unfortunately has a history of seeing government is the solution to the problems, and it's a fundamental difference in a way of looking at solutions to the problems," Golding said.
Democrat candidate Liz Mathis argued job growth stems from improving our education system. Mathis harping on the governor's attempt to cut funding to preschool programs and accusing Golding of being a vote for the governor's policies.
"I'm not sure about the things she's talked about and told the press about reaching across the aisle. I see it as following what the governor wants her to do," Mathis said.
During a debate over the "brain drain" or the loss of Iowa college graduates to the job markets of surrounding states, Golding cited her kids as an example. Explaining all of her children chose to pursue their careers as engineers in states other than Iowa.
In a rebuttal, Mathis responded, "I believe Rockwell Collins was at one time looking for 1500 engineers. I find it interesting your kids couldn't find jobs there."
Mathis also asked for a reply from Golding over a controversial add by the republican party calling Mathis a celebrity – as a result of her past work as an anchor at KCRG and work at other local stations.
"Unfortunately I had no control over it, and I asked for it to be removed and it was," said Golding.
KCRG 9.2 will re-air the debate in its entirety at 1 p.m. Monday, October 31st, and at 8 p.m. Tuesday, November first.