A special election in Iowa yesterday provided a big victory for marriage equality in the state by allowing Democrats to maintain their narrow 26-24 majority in the Senate.
Democrat Liz Mathis won a Senate seat in a Republican-leaning district by a margin of 55 to 43, defeating right-wing Republican Cindy Golding, who was heavily promoted by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.
Democrats have used their Senate majority to block a series of right-wing Republican efforts, ranging from cutting business taxes to banning same-sex marriage to tightening laws on abortion.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said the win would allow Democrats to continue blocking such proposals. He has steadfastly refused to allow a GOP-backed measure to enact a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to reach the Senate floor.
If Gronstal had lost power, the Senate could have voted on a measure that the House approved in February banning both same-sex marriage and marriage-like unions.
“We’ll continue to block efforts by Republicans to do extreme things,” Gronstal said following Mathis’ victory yesterday.
The short but intense campaign was watched closely because the district, which includes the city of Marion and portions of rural Linn County, is a classic swing district. There are a few hundred more Republicans than Democrats in the district, but voters who registered without declaring a party preference outnumber both.
The election was called when Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Marion Democratic Sen. Swati Dandekar to the Iowa Utilities Board. Critics said Branstad made the appointment to open a Republican-leaning seat in the Legislature, a charge he denied.
Spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor would have no comment on Tuesday’s election.
In the final hours of the special election campaign, voters were flooded by robo-calls that directed callers to ask Mathis “what homosexual sex acts she endorses.” The calls were designed to inflame homophobic sentiment and spur anti-gay voters to the polls to support the Republican.
Golding’s campaign denied any involvement with the calls. The National Organization for Marriage not only denied involvement but said the calls were orchestrated by pro-gay interests to discredit Golding’s campaign.