Pella Chronicle

Opinion

September 18, 2009

What can we learn from the Iowa House 90th District Election?

A Democrat won by a margin of 107 votes, an off year special election in Iowa’s House district 90. The race was interesting and maybe even important because off year elections allow you to take the temperature of politics or better said see what direction the political wind is blowing.

This race was also interesting because it’s the first contest after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage in Iowa is legal because it is a constitutionally protected civil liberty. Because it is the first test of how the gay marriage issue might play out "outside" groups poured huge amounts of money into the race. The National Organization for Marriage was especially prominent and pro gay marriage groups also opened their wallets more than you’d expect in such a basically insignificant contest.

So what does the victory of the democrat tell us?

First, it tells us that the gay marriage issue, which was the prominent campaign theme, was not enough to swing this election.

Second, it tells us very little about support for gay marriage because although Republican Stephen Burgmeier was the recipient of the anti gay marriage largesse, Democrat Curt Hanson was actually also not a supporter of gay marriage. So the choice was between two candidates opposed to gay marriage one of which was the clear standard bearer of that cause (Burgmeier) and the other candidates emphasized other issues more. Let it be said that outsiders actually stoked the emphasis on gay marriage. Burgmeier himself may not have made that the central storm of this race. That too is a lesson to take away from this election.

Third, the Republican should have won the race because when there are open seats the "out" party in that jurisdiction (District 90) has the best chance of winning.

Fourth, judging from the private reaction of Republicans with whom I have spoken this was a big disappointment for the GOP.

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