DES MOINES (AP) — The campaigns for and against Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins launched competing bus tours Monday at the State Capitol.
Social conservatives seeking to oust Wiggins in a November retention vote were led by Bob Vander Plaats of the Family Leader, an activist group, and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. They gathered in front of the Capitol near two buses with “No Wiggins” logos.
Once that event ended, another backed by the Iowa State Bar Association began. Speakers at the “Yes Iowa Judges” event included Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s niece, Christine Branstad, a Des Moines attorney.
They called for retaining Wiggins, who angered social conservatives when he joined in a unanimous 2009 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa.
Vander Plaats, who has had three unsuccessful runs for governor as a Republican, orchestrated the 2010 campaign to oust three of the Supreme Court justices who were part of the 7-0 ruling in 2009. He said it will be a tough battle to get Wiggins voted out with the lawyers group running an opposing campaign.
“We know the bar association is going to do the chicken thing and they’re going to follow us around, because they don’t have what it takes to develop their own tour,” he said.
Iowa’s justices face a retention vote every eight years. In 2010, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit were on the ballot. They failed to get a simple majority to maintain their seats.
Vander Plaats said leaving the judges on the bench who decided the same-sex marriage case could threaten other rights.
“If they’ll redefine the institution of marriage, they won’t even blink an eye when they take away your private property, when they take away your guns, when they tell you how to educate your children, when they take away your religious liberty or when they take away your freedom of the press,” he said.
The lawyers providing the counterpoint to Vander Plaats with their own bus tour say the issue at stake is not gay marriage but maintaining a fair and impartial court system immune from the pressures of politics.
“We don’t want to return to the days where politics have been injected into our system and remove the fair and impartial courts that we have that are well-respected throughout the country,” said Guy Cook, a Des Moines lawyer and the president-elect of the Iowa State Bar Association.
The remaining justices involved in the equal rights decision — Mark Cady, Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel — face retention votes in 2016.
Later this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to join the No Wiggins tour. The bus tour will travel to 17 cities, Vander Plaats said.
It is scheduled to hit Council Bluffs at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Bayliss Park. The Yes Iowa Judges tour, heading to 19 cities, is also scheduled to be in Council Bluffs at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. A location for the stop has not been set.
Appointed judges Thomas Waterman, Edward Mansfield and Bruce Zager — who replaced the three ousted judges — will all be on the ballot for retention this year along with Wiggins.
This report includes material from the World-Herald News Service.