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Iowa Politics Roundup: Legislative Democrats Pick Leaders, Fear Extremism by Republicans - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 19 November 2010 14:13

Pro-Judicial-Retention Group Already Looking to Future Elections

Groups in favor of judicial retention are ready to ramp up their efforts to support Iowa Supreme Court justices after being outspent more than two-to-one in a failed effort to retain three justices on November 2.

Dan Moore, co-chair of the Fair Courts for Us Committee, said some opponents of judicial retention have signaled they won’t give up until all seven justices that signed on to the unanimous ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the state have been ousted.

Fair Courts for Us made $383,309 in independent expenditures to support the three justices, according to the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board. Iowa for Freedom and a bevy of other conservative groups – including the Family Research Council, Iowa Family Policy Center Action, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Citizens United Political Victory Fund – spent $958,459 to oust the justices.

“We tried to get our message out as best we could with the limited resources we had,” Moore said. “It’s ironic because ... we’re trying to get campaign money and politics out of the judicial branch. And yet that’s what hurt us ... .”

The retention elections removed Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit.

Moore, a Republican, is a former president of the Iowa State Bar Association who worked with Bob Vander Plaats’ gubernatorial campaign. Moore now finds himself working against Vander Plaats, state chair of Iowa for Freedom, one of the groups that successfully worked to remove the three justices.

Vander Plaats hasn’t said what Iowa for Freedom’s future plans are, although this week he announced he’ll be working with the Iowa Family Policy Center and Marriage Matters.

Justice David Wiggins is up for retention in 2012, while Justices Mark Cady, Daryl Hecht, and Brent Appel are up in 2016.

The more than $1.3 million in independent expenditures spent on the issue had a definite impact, said Charlie Smithson, executive director and legal counsel for the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.

“I think it’s clear that they had to have some sort of impact in the way that vote came out,” Smithson said. “I mean, that was an unparalleled result in Iowa.”

Judge Encourages Attorneys to Apply for Judiciary; Proposes More Transparency

Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Mary Tabor on Thursday urged members of the Iowa State Bar Association against letting the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court justices in the November 2 election discourage them from applying to be a judge.

“I don’t think we should let the recent upheaval in the retention election discourage good candidates from applying,” Tabor said during a continuing-legal-education course for attorneys. “Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be deterred. It’s a very high-quality process.”

Frank Carroll, a Des Moines attorney who’s president of the Iowa State Bar Association, told IowaPolitics.com that he doesn’t think that the outcome of the retention election is going to have much of an impact on the interest by future applicants.

“I think you’re still going to have extremely qualified individuals submitting their names for the Supreme Court,” Carroll said. “I don’t think it’s going to have any significant impact.”

According to judicial-branch spokesperson Steve Davis, 17 people applied to fill Supreme Court vacancies in both February 2008 and July 2006, and 18 applied in both September 2006 and August 2003.

Tabor suggested Thursday that Iowa make public the questionnaires that attorneys must fill out when they apply to become judges, in light of the recent election.

“My view is perhaps an addition of transparency is a good thing for the nominating process, and I think one place might be to have these confidential questionnaires not be kept confidential,” Tabor said. “I don’t think there’s anything that the public shouldn’t see in there about what your qualifications are and why you want that position.”

Redistricting to Kick Off Next Month

Next year’s redrawing of political boundaries is expected to shake up Iowa’s political world, pit some congressional and legislative incumbents against one another, cause some people to sell their houses and move, attract newcomers to the process, and allow some who were defeated this year to run again.

“The shakeup is an opportunity,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky. “When these things all shake out, a lot of talented people already in office and many who are not will begin to look at public office. ... When the district changes, it’s a brand-new election, and some people will be thrown together.”

It all kicks off December 31, when the U.S. Census reports to Congress the number of congressional seats that each state will have. Iowa’s process will possibly wrap up in four months, by the end of the legislative session, but could take as long as eight months, depending on whether lawmakers choose to reject the initial maps drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Iowa’s nonpartisan process of redistricting – with a strict limitation against the use of political data and incumbent addresses – increases the likelihood of incumbents being pitted against one another in the next election and creates Iowa’s own version of term limits.

“Iowa is in a category on its own. It’s done without partisan data, but it does involve the legislature,” said Tim Storey, the National Conference of State Legislatures’ expert on redistricting. “The other thing that makes Iowa unique: You have scores of incumbents paired against each other, which you almost never see in other states.”

It’s a near certainty that Iowa will lose one congressional district in this round of redistricting, bringing the state down to four seats, according to both political analysts and experts in redistricting.

U.S. Representative Steve King’s Republican-leaning district of 32 counties will likely grow even larger, while districts will be more condensed in central and eastern Iowa where metro and suburban areas have seen population growth. Three of those four districts are currently represented by Democratic congressmen.

The new 2010 Census numbers are expected to show that Iowa’s population has grown to about 3 million in the past decade, according to Ed Cook of the Legislative Services Agency. The elimination of one congressional district will mean that each Iowa representative will have a district of about 750,000 Iowans, rather than the current 550,000.

Following 2011 redistricting, Iowa House members will each represent about 30,000 Iowans rather than the current 29,000, and Iowa Senate members will represent about 60,000 Iowans instead of the current 58,000.

Gingrich Says 2010 Republican Takeover Bigger Than 1994; Will Make Decision About Run for President in February

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich remained mum Tuesday during his sixth visit to Iowa about whether he’ll throw his proverbial hat into the ring for the 2012 presidential election.

“There needs to be a wave of change deeper than just the presidency,” Gingrich said. “I’m still sorting out how it can be done, and if I’m the right person to do it.”

Though he was asked a few times if he was seriously considering a bid, Gingrich would only say he would make a definite decision in February.

He also said Republicans’ 2010 midterm takeover was “deeper and bigger” than the one in 1994, when he was the architect of the Contract with America, which helped usher in a Republican takeover of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

“This is the biggest House change since 1952,” Gingrich said. “The facts are [that] we had about 60 congressional seats change this year compared to maybe 52 seats in 1994. There were about 680 elected seats that changed from this election, compared to maybe only 400 in 1994.”

Gingrich was at the Borders bookstore in West Des Moines on Tuesday to sign copies of his new novel, Valley Forge: A Story of Endurance & Transformation, which explores General George Washington’s tribulations and trials during the American Revolution. He later made stop in Ames and Cedar Rapids.

More than 100 people – political supporters of Gingrich and history buffs alike – came to meet the former congressman in West Des Moines. Gingrich deflected most questions over a potential candidacy and instead chose to focus on what the new House and Senate should tackle in the next few years. “Liberalism should not be changed; it should be replaced,” he said. “The Left somehow survives, but our country is ready to recognize that these institutions do not work anymore.”

He also said judges “have run amok.” When asked about Iowa justices who were not on the ballot for retention this November, Gingrich said: “I’d ask them to step down. Had they been on the ballot, they would have been voted out, and if [Governor Chet] Culver has any sense, he will not appoint more radical judges like the ones who were just voted off the bench.”

This weekly summary comes from IowaPolitics.com, an online government and politics news service. Reporter Andrew Duffelmeyer and other correspondents contributed to this report.

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