DES MOINES — Conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats announced the launch of an effort Saturday to defeat Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins in the Nov. 6 judicial retention vote similar to the way voters sent a trio of justices packing two years ago for their role in a 2009 decision that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Iowa.
“This is about freedom, not just about marriage,” Vander Plaats said in unveiling Iowans for Freedom’s 2012 campaign to oust Wiggins — who is one of four Supreme Court justices who will be up for retention this fall — during the sold-out Family Leader’s Family Leadership Summit that drew 1,000 activists to the Point of Grace church in Waukee.
“We see this as a freedom and constitutional issue important to all Iowans. If courts are allowed to redefine the institution of marriage, every one of the liberties we hold dear is in jeopardy.”
To kick off the campaign, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage pledged that his organization would provide a match of up to $100,000 the contributions that are made during the next two weeks.
Vander Plaats said Iowans for Freedom will reprise its 2010 effort that succeeded in defeating then-Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker for their involvement in the court’s April 2009 unanimous ruling that struck down as unconstitutional a state law that defined marriage in Iowa as only between one man and one woman.
“We will run a very focused and grassroots advocacy movement destined to produce similar or better results than the 2010 effort,” said Greg Baker, who will serve as the campaign’s executive director.
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Campaign co-chair Tamara Scott said the effort had an advantage two years ago because mainstream political activists did not take it seriously, but that won’t be the case this time around. She said judicial branch officials already have launched a “dog and phony pony” tour of college campuses to “educate” Iowans about the court but she was confident Iowans would “vote with their hearts and their minds” again this November.
Vander Plaats, the head of the Family Leader who previously ran three unsuccessful bids for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, acknowledged that the 2012 effort to defeat Wiggins will be tougher than the successful 2010 campaign. The former high school basketball coach likened the 2012 effort to a state championship team trying to repeat, noting that “it’s awfully hard to go back and win the same state championship so we know this effort is going to be a little bit more difficult.”
Vander Plaats again called for the four justices who are still on the bench who participated in the landmark gay marriage ruling to step down, but he doubted that would happen because they continue to exhibit “a thread of judicial arrogance.” He said the 2012 campaign will be targeted at defeating Wiggins but not removing the three justices also up for retention who Branstad appointed to replace Ternus, Streit and Baker.
“We’re not going after those three. We will know this effort is successful if we just vote out Wiggins but nobody else,” Vander Plaats said. “Iowans are intellectual, they’re savvy, they know what they’re doing. They voted out three, so I think Iowans this time will vote out Wiggins only.”