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Republicans Make Choice for Key Senate Race PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Hannah Hess   
Friday, 23 September 2011 13:44

Republicans on September 22 chose Linn County GOP Co-Chair Cindy Golding as their candidate for the Iowa Senate District 18 special election, which could alter control of the Iowa Senate.

Golding, of rural Cedar Rapids, won with 51.6 percent of the weighted vote cast by the 50 delegates who gathered in the Longbranch Hotel & Convention Center in Cedar Rapids.

She defeated former U.S. Attorney Matt Dummermuth of Robins, who placed second with 28.1 percent of the vote, and Marion businesswoman Mary Rathje, who received 20.2 percent of the vote. Governor Terry Branstad encouraged Rathje to run, gubernatorial spokesperson Tim Albrecht confirmed September 23.

During the two-and-a-half-hour special nominating convention, Republicans grilled the three candidates on issues ranging from abortion to education to stimulating the economy to collective bargaining.

Golding emphasized her business experience and familiarity with Des Moines from years of lobbying as a member of the Iowa Farm Bureau.

“We worked on legislation that would remove regulations, and all of that was stalled in the Senate,” said Golding, noting her membership in the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business lobbying organization. “So, as a senator, I would be working on the inside, instead of pounding on the door from the outside, to move that legislation ahead.”

Golding is expected to face former television anchor Liz Mathis, a Robins Democrat, in the November 8 special election. The winner will fill the Iowa Senate seat vacated by Swati Dandekar, a Marion Democrat who resigned September 16 to take a $137,000-a-year job with the Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates Iowa’s utilities.

The Iowa Senate is now split 25-24. Democrats must win the election to maintain their majority in the Senate, a buffer against the agenda of Republican Branstad and the Iowa House, where the GOP holds a 60-40 majority.

This year, Democrats used their slim majority to block passage of a public vote on same-sex marriage, of sweeping property-tax reform, of an end to universal state-funded preschool, and of a bill that they said threatened collective bargaining.

“We need to break the stranglehold the Senate has on moving Governor Branstad’s agenda forward,” Golding said, “and I believe I can do that.”

Immediately after the votes were tabulated and the winner was announced, Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn promised ample resources and a “team of volunteers from across the state” to lead Golding to victory over the next six weeks.

Strawn told that Iowans “want somebody in there that they know is a fighter and knows what it takes to create jobs as a small-business owner,” and said Golding would be a “great contrast” to the likely Democratic nominee.

But Democrats also promised a tough fight for Senate District 18, which includes Marion, Fairfax, Palo, Hiawatha, Robins, Alburnett, Center Point, Walker, Coggon, Prairieburg, and part of Walford. Both Iowa House districts in the area are represented by Republicans – one by Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha), who attended the nominating convention.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky criticized Golding as a “rubber stamp for Governor Branstad and the Tea Party Republicans.”

The Democratic Party will hold a “kickoff canvass” of Senate District 18 on Saturday and its own nominating convention next Wednesday.

Dvorsky said the party is “already witnessing an outpouring of support from many local activists and community leaders who know what’s at stake and are ready to work towards victory.”

The district is politically competitive. As of September 1, Republicans had 15,972 registered voters in Senate District 18, while Democrats had 15,759. Independents topped both parties with 19,873 voters, according to data from the Iowa secretary of state’s office.

This article was produced by For more stories on Iowa politics, visit

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