In May, Bob Vander Plaats’ anti-gay organization The Family Leader (TFL) endorsed 10 “pro-family” candidates from among the 35 competitive Republican statehouse primaries held this Tuesday. To qualify for an endorsement, candidates had to believe that the “only way our nation can reclaim a God-honoring culture is to defend strong families” and that an “ethical, free enterprise system is consistent with the biblical notion of stewardship,” and vow to protect life “from conception to natural death.”
TFL, which led the charge to oust three of the state Supreme Court justices whose unanimous 2009 ruling legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa, hopes to tip the balance of power in the state Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has refused to allow debate on the marriage issue. Republicans currently hold the governor’s office and House.
Only three of TFL’s 10 endorsements were for Senate races (two of those candidates won), but any Republicans are likely to support efforts to put same-sex marriage up to a popular vote. In any case, only two TFL-endorsed candidates failed to advance to the general election. Here’s a rundown of the contests in which TFL issued endorsements, starting with the state Senate primaries (the group’s preferred candidates are listed first):
Senate District 4: Dennis Guth defeated Jim Black
Guth, who lives on a farm north of Klemme, is involved with TFL’s Let Us Vote (LUV) campaign, an effort to put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot for a popular vote. For that to happen, a bill would first have to pass through the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions. Black, a former state senator from Algona who was endorsed by Gov. Terry Branstad and the anti-abortion group Iowa Right to Life, lost with 47 percent of the vote.
SD 22: Jeff Mullen lost to state Sen. Pat Ward
The Iowa Republican’s Kevin Hall called the Mullen/Ward contest “perhaps the ugliest race in the state,” although Ward prevailed with 58 percent of the vote. Mullen, the pastor of the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, published a misleading newspaper-style ad that became the subject of an ethics complaint. He supported Michele Bachmann’s presidential bid; and his bid was supported by Fort Des Moines Church of Christ Pastor Mike Demastus, whose “Gay Is Not Okay” marquee the Ames Progressive exclusively reported on in February.
SD 36: Jane Jech defeated Larry McKibben
A member of Marshalltown’s Pro-Life Task Force, Jech is a preacher’s wife and substitute teacher who was backed by Iowa Right to Life. McKibben is a former three-term state senator who was urged by Gov. Branstad to run again. Jech won with 59 percent of the vote.
And the House primaries:
House District 10: State Rep. Tom Shaw defeated Maison Bleam
A freshman legislator and gun advocate from Laurens, Shaw was endorsed by the National Rifle Association (he’s a member) and Iowa Gun Owners, as well as the Liberty Iowa PAC and House Speaker Kraig Paulsen. Bleam, a former staffer for Iowa Congressman Steve King, was endorsed by Iowa Right to Life and retiring state Rep. David Tjepkes of Gowrie. Shaw coasted to victory with 65 percent of the vote.
HD 24: State Rep. Cecil Dolecheck defeated Jane Jensen
The incumbent Dolecheck, who was also endorsed by the NRA, hails from Mt. Ayr and has served since 1997. He’s a Farm Bureau ally who serves on the House’s agriculture committee. Jensen owns a restaurant in Clarinda. Both candidates were endorsed by Iowa Right to Life, and Dolecheck won with 59 percent of the vote.
HD 25: Joan Acela lost to state Rep. Julian Garrett
Acela is a former educator from Winterset who served on the Madison County Board of Supervisors from 2007-2010. She was supported by two pro-gun groups and boasted that she received an A+ rating from the pro-Ron Paul Iowa Campaign for Liberty. Garrett, who won with 59 percent of the vote, is a freshman legislator from Indianola endorsed by the NRA and Gov. Branstad. Iowa Right to Life supported both candidates.
HD 27: State Rep. Joel Fry defeated James Demichelis
Another freshman representative, Fry crushed Demichelis, winning 85 percent of the primary vote. He’s from Osceola and is the president and cofounder of TEAM Restoration Ministries, a Christian counseling center. Fry, who was endorsed by the NRA and Iowa Right to Life, also has a degree in social work. The fact that Demichelis ran for the House in 2008 as a Democrat may have accounted for his unpopularity.
HD 30: Jim Carley defeated Carol Miller
When Ron Paul-supporting freshman Rep. Kim Pearson decided not to run for reelection this year, she recruited Altoona tea party activist and Army vet Jim Carley to take her place. Carley scored endorsements from the NRA and Iowa Right to Life. Miller, a former president of the Polk County Farm Bureau, only managed to secure 27 percent of the vote.
HD 38: State Rep. Kevin Koester defeated Brett Nelson
Two-term state Rep. Koester served for three decades as the director of community education for the Ankeny school district and “believes parents should be empowered to make decisions in regard to their children’s education.” He was endorsed by the NRA and Iowa Right to Life. Nelson, a self-employed insurance adviser, never put up much of a fight: only 15 percent of voters chose him in the primary.
HD 78: State Rep. Jarad Klein defeated Priscilla Marlar
Freshman Rep. Klein, who lives on a family farm north of Keota, received a bruising 82 percent of the primary vote. He was endorsed by the NRA. Marlar, an office administrator and director of children’s music at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant, received inconsequential support from the Iowa Gun Owners PAC.
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