DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa’s voters have retained Justice David Wiggins on the Iowa Supreme Court, following a heated campaign by marriage equality opponents who sought to remove him from the bench following the unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.
Wiggins needed a simple majority of votes to stay on high court — he received 54 percent, with 83 percent of Iowa’s 1,689 precincts reporting,
In an interview late Tuesday with the Des Moines Register, Iowa State Bar Association spokesperson Cynthia Moser said, “As I understand the numbers, I think we did get a decisive win” that hopefully will prevent future challenges to judges.
“We’re very pleased with the numbers we received,” she said.
Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowans For Freedom committee that spearheaded a campaign to oust Wiggins, conceded defeat late Tuesday, bu said the “small” margin for retention was “not a great validation for Justice Wiggins.”
Thousands of voters on Tuesday repeated the message sent two years ago that they didn’t want the courts to make law, Vander Plaats said. “I think the courts understand that people of Iowa still have a voice if they chose to go outside their constitutional boundaries.”
Wiggins was the fourth Iowa Supreme Court justice to stand for a retention vote since seven justices unanimously ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009.
Three former justices — Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit — were ousted in 2010 after socially conservative Iowans, backed by cash from out-of-state anti-gay groups, principally the National Orgainsation for Marriage, convinced voters that the same-sex marriage decision was grounds for their removal.
Both sides, using money from both Iowans and those elsewhere, spent heavily on automated phone calls, videos, mailings and other campaign trappings, including September bus tours across the state. The “No Wiggins” bus tour attracted Republican heavyweights who sought to drum up turnout for the presidential race as well as to encourage the campaign against Wiggins.
“Iowans have made a strong statement for judicial independence and refused to let politics get in the way of judges doing their duty to uphold the law,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, in a statement.
“Right-wing groups trying to exact political retribution on judges should learn their lesson. Marriage equality remains the law of the land in Iowa and judges will continue to do their jobs,” said Griffin.