Republican Stephen Burgmeier was defeated by Democrat Curt Hanson in a special election to fill Representative John Whitaker's seat in Iowa. Why was so much attention focused on this small race? And why is it likely to be one of the most expensive House races in Iowa history?
Because it was the first election held since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and the right-wing groups poured into the state to support Burgmeier, who ran a campaign based on his opposition to marriage equality. Forming a campaign called "Reclaim Iowa", three groups that oppose gay marriage supported Burgmeier: Everyday America, the Iowa Family Policy Center, and (wait for it...) the National Organization for Marriage.
How much did they pour into this race?
NOM swooped in to Iowa and plopped down $86,080, betting that marriage equality could be used as an electoral wedge issue in the state. Of course, in typical NOM fashion, they failed to disclose the names of their donors, which is legally required, and a formal complaint was filed against NOM in Iowa.
Watch as I shed a tear for NOM...
The unofficial vote tally was 3,932 to 3,825 votes, a narrow but important victory. While it was close, it does seem to show that Iowans simply don't want to see marriage equality as the basis of a campaign, or hear homophobic ads air in their state.
If the victory in a small election like this, which occurred while the Court decision was still fresh in the minds of voters, is out of reach even with the tons of dirty NOM money flowing in, it doesn't bode well for others looking to make taking away marriage rights their platform.
Don't tell that to many of the Republicans in the state, however. All of the leading Republicans fighting for the governorship in 2010 are hopping on the anti-gay soapbox. Bob Vander Plaats has pledged he would sign an executive order placing a stay on gay marriages and force a public vote on the issue. State Rep Rod Roberts is demanding that Iowans kick out the seven justices, three of which will be up for retention in 2010.
And you can bet NOM will be happy to throw more money into that fire. Since NOM can't fund a rights-stripping voter referendum like in California or Maine without the legislature approving it first, we're sure to see them keep pushing individual candidates to change the make-up of the Democratically-led Legislature.
Although, dumping $90,000 into a race with less than 8,000 voters - AND LOSING - doesn't seem to be a winning political strategy. But logic never was NOM's strong suit.
NOM is spending money on something other than Maggie G and Brian Brown's paychecks... Or Carrie Prejean's bogus lawsuit for religious discrimination. It may be money flushed down the drain (yay!), but I'm sure they'll find some twisted way to make it victory or at the very least play martyrs for pity. Maybe that'll be good enough to keep the dirty hate money coming in for the National Organization for Marriage.
Let's hope not.
So congratulations to Curt Hanson and all of the groups that fought hard against the NOM invasion of Iowa and won! Stopping their "Gathering Storm" of hate always brings a smile to my face.