Candidates in the Iowa special election race face off in debate

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October 28, 2011

Swati Dandekar was appointed to serve on the Iowa Utilities Board by Gov. Terry Branstad, leaving a vacancy in District 18

MARION, Iowa: While Iowa is not holding state legislative elections this year, the political eyes of the state, and indeed the nation, have become focused on the special election for Senate District 18 which has the potential to single-handedly shift the balance of power in the chamber.

Gov. Terry Branstad called the special election in September, following the resignation of Swati Dandekar (D) whom he appointed to the Iowa Utilities Board. Prior to her resignation, the partisan balance of the Senate favored Democrats 26-24. However, if Republicans can flip District 18, the Senate will be tied 25-25.[1]

Three contenders are vying for the seat - Republican business owner Cindy Golding, Democrat Liz Mathis, a former TV news anchor, and Constitution Party candidate Jon Tack. The candidates met at a League of Women Voters forum on October 27, 2011.

A major issue of the debate, which the candidates noted has been driven by interests outside of the district, is that of civil marriage. Golding said citizens should be allowed to vote on a constitutional amendment regarding the issue.[2] "We have some real serious issues here in the state of Iowa and until we allow the citizens of Iowa to vote on this issue, and the citizens of Iowa vote it up or vote it down, it will continue to take all of the political attention and energy off of other issues. We need to allow the people of Iowa to vote on this issue,” she stated.[3] Mathis said the issue is about discrimination, something she does not support. However, she said the issue is a distraction from more pressing issues, such as business, education and jobs. Tack said the ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court regarding civil marriages should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Another major issue discussed was that of abortion. Mathis stated, “I don’t think a politician should get involved in a woman’s right to choose. I feel that’s a woman’s choice, and I also feel that every woman, in making a decision like this, needs to consult with her family, her clergy and her doctor.”[3] Golding noted that federal laws prohibit the state from banning abortion, but that she would do everything she could to limit it in Iowa. Tack said that he is pro-life.

The special election will take place on November 8, 2011.

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