Flying in the face of 50 years of non-partisanship, Republican Party of Iowa chair A.J. Spiker launched a press release this morning in which he directly calls for a No vote on the retention of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.
The words Varnum v. Brien do not appear, but Spiker is clearly talking about the historic marriage equality ruling: "Instead of allowing the people of Iowa to decide this issue at the polls, these judges instead chose to impose their will upon the state and re-write history without weighing the merits of our laws and values."
This is different than 2010, when a defeated perennial candidate decided to Be Very Partisan about judicial elections with a campaign that defeated three justices. No, this is the sitting party chair saying (emphasis added) "On behalf of the Republican Party of Iowa, I urge all Iowans to go to the polls this November and vote “No” on the retention of Justice Wiggins."
"On behalf of the Republican Party." That's some strong language there. So is that a full-blown party endorsement? Did the state central committee vote and I missed it? The party platform makes multiple references to "legislating from the bench" and makes calls for impeachment, but does not directly comment on the retention vote. Spiker's press release is on the state party web site.
Unfortunately, any Republicans who might draw the distinction between a chair's endorsement and a party endorsement are probably too busy eating lunch at Chick-Fil-A today to comment.
UPDATE as Democratic chair Sue Dvorsky responds:
“Chairman Spiker’s comments and other attacks against the judiciary are unacceptable and highlight the dangers of politicizing the judicial branch, which is an independent branch protecting the civil rights of all Iowans. “
We vehemently oppose the politicization of judicial selection by the RPI and special interest groups, many of them out of state, who financed the anti-retention campaign in 2010 and will likely fund the effort in 2012.
“We are very concerned about the risk these out-of-state special interest groups are bringing to our state, and we will not sit quietly as they crusade to eliminate an independent judiciary and taint the entire democratic system. As Iowans we must stand up for and independent judicial system that continues to work for all of us.”Social conservatives have a tougher task this time. They can't fly under the radar, and Wiggins is more prepared for a fight than his colleagues were. It's also more complicated because in addition to Wiggins, three other Supreme Court justices are on the ballot: the three appointed by Terry Branstad to replace the three who were defeated.
UPDATE 2: Spiker followed his press release with a fund raising email:
I call on all Republicans in Iowa to vote, "No" on the retention of Justice David Wiggins in this coming November election. We have an obligation to protect the rule of law and the values we believe in and have the opportunity to do so by removing those with blatant disregard for the law. Help advance the principles of the Iowa GOP by donating $20, $50, or $100 today."It's a desperate, cynical ploy by the Iowa GOP to reverse its abysmal fundraising numbers," said Gregory Hauenstein on Twitter. Indeed, state party fundraising has lagged significantly since Ron Paul supporter Spiker took over as chair this spring, after Matt Strawn was squeezed out over the caucus count controversy.