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Iowa SD 18 candidates differ on social issues

MARION — Although candidates in Iowa Senate District 18 agreed local residents haven’t been asking about the social issues that seem to be the focus of national media and third-party groups regarding this special election, they nonetheless received and answered questions on those topics during a League of Women Voters forum Thursday night.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/golding_150.jpgCindy Golding

Republican Cindy Golding co-owns four businesses with her husband and was elected as co-chairwoman of the Linn County Republican Central Committee. She’s also a former director of youth ministry with Youth for Christ and currently serves on the board of directors for Heartland Youth for Christ, which is an evangelical Protestant religious campaign that works “with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to prayer and the Word of God, passion for sharing the love of Christ and commitment to social investment.”

When asked if state residents should be allowed to vote on a constitutional amendment regarding civil marriage for gays and lesbians, Golding said they should.

“I did not get questions when I was door-knocking; however, as soon as this race came out, I had national media calling,” Golding said.

“One of the things that I have learned is that this issue has come up in states all across the country. 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.”

Jon Tack

Constitution Party candidate Jon Tack, a veteran and senior lab tech at Schneider Electric who serves as vice chairman of the political organization and who previously launched a bid for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s 2nd District, said instead of allowing a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban such marriages, the decision by the Iowa Supreme Court should be struck down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“With the issue of gay marriage or same-sex marriage, marriage is actually a religious ceremony,” Tack said. “It is not part of a government function and, as such, it therefore violates the First Amendment upon which the government shall not make any laws respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof.

“The decision handed down by the Iowa Supreme Court should be nullified because the government has no business dealing with religion and telling them how to operate, who to accept in terms of marriage in Christianity, which is what we are in Iowa — primarily in Iowa; mostly [this is] a Christian nation. Marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/mathis_150.jpgLiz Mathis

Democrat Liz Mathis, a former TV news anchor that works at a local child welfare advocacy agency and co-owns a business with her husband, said the issue at hand was one of discrimination, which she does not support.

“I do support the Iowa Supreme Court appellate decision supporting gay marriage,” Mathis said of the April 2009 unanimous decision. “If you read Varnum v. Brien, it is constitutionally sound.

“This is an issue that a lot of people are trying to draw into this race, and they are trying to take us off the focus of business growth and jobs and education. But we are going to keep focused. We are going to talk about business, education and job growth.”

As the candidates noted, the issue of civil marriage has not been driven by interests within SD 18, but largely by regional and national social conservative groups who want the special election to be a referendum on the Iowa courts and the slim Democratic Senate majority (specifically Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who resides on the other side of the state) that has thus far prevented passage of a constitutional amendment that is widely supported by the Republican-controlled Iowa House and Gov. Terry Branstad.

Senate Democrats have said in no uncertain terms that they have no interest in writing discrimination into the Iowa Constitution through such an amendment, which pretty much makes the issue a moot point regardless of if the Senate maintains its 26-24 Democratic advantage or if it becomes an evenly split chamber following this special election so long as the Democratic majority continues to act uniformly.

A social issue that could be directly and nearly immediately advanced if the Senate becomes a split chamber is abortion restriction. During the 2011 General Assembly, two Democratic Senators — Joe Seng and Tom Hancock — broke ranks to advance an anti-abortion measure out of committee.

At the Thursday night forum, which was held at the Kirkwood Training and Outreach Services Center, the candidates were asked to state their position on abortion.

Mathis said, “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.”

Tack said, “I believe that all life is unalienable. That means that it is not a decision to be taken lightly to end that life. I am pro-life. I stand on that. I know there are people who disagree with me. In my experiences, protection of life is the utmost and that is what is in our constitution — the protection of life, especially innocent life like that of young children.”

Golding provided more than her position, cautioning those in the audience that federal laws prohibit certain state actions regarding abortion.

“Federal laws do not allow us to eliminate abortion in the state of Iowa,” she said. “But, as a mother of six, I have also had miscarriages, I have counseled — worked with women who have had the unfortunate time of having been told that abortion is a good birth control measure. And, 10-, 15- or 20-years later they are suffering the emotional impact of having made that choice. I think that we need to do everything we can because people use it as just a cavalier birth control method, and the devastating result is not immediate, but years later. If you have a friend or a neighbor or a relative or even yourself who has experienced that, it is something that we have taken so lightly. When that law was passed in 1973, we did not know the dramatic long-term impact.

“Every time there is an unwanted pregnancy, every time a woman has to face that choice — there are only three choice you have: abort the child, give the child up for adoption or raise the child. There is no other choice, and each choice is difficult with an unwanted pregnancy. We need to do whatever we can to help that woman make the right choice and let her know what those long-term ramifications and emotional impact will be long before she makes that decision. So, I would do everything I can to counsel and limit abortion as much as possible in this state.”

The special election in SD 18 will take place on Nov. 8. The District, which will undergo significant changes for the 2012 general election as a result of redistricting, currently includes Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Walford, Alburnett, Center Point, Central City, Walker, Coggon, Palo and Prairieburg. Following redistricting, Mathis and Tack would remain in the newly drawn boundaries; Golding would not — and has indicated that she would not move to seek re-election.

The seat in Senate District 18 was vacated by Democrat Swati Dandekar, who was offered a gubernatorial appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board.

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