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Iowa justice: Retention victory for fairness

Nov 07, 2012

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins is thanking voters for giving him another eight years on the bench and rejecting a conservative-led campaign to remove him for participating in the ruling that legalized gay marriage.

Wiggins issued a statement Wednesday thanking “everybody who worked so hard to keep politics out of our courts.” He says he wants to thank Iowans “who preserved the fairness and impartiality of Iowa’s courts and agree that equal means equal.”

Chief Justice Mark Cady also hailed Wiggins’ retention, calling it “an important moment in the history of Iowa’s courts.”

Wiggins won retention with more than 54 percent of the vote. He was one of seven justices who struck down Iowa’s ban on gay marriage in 2009. Three of them were removed by voters in 2010.

“This is a great day for rule of law in Iowa and Iowa voters have wisely rejected politics and intimidation in our court system,” said Guy Cook, president-elect of the bar association. “Justice Wiggins is an intelligent, hard-working and fair man. It’s good to know that he hasn’t been fired for simply doing his job.”

With 88 percent of Iowa precincts reporting, more than 54 percent of voters said Wiggins should remain on the bench. Wiggins, 63, needed only a simple majority to win another eight-year term.

The Family Leader, the social conservative group that led the anti-Wiggins campaign, conceded defeat late Tuesday. Spokeswoman Julie Summa noted the race was close and many Iowa residents signaled they remained opposed to the ruling.

“That’s quite a few Iowans that believe Justice Wiggins stepped outside his bounds,” she said. “This time around, we were competing with the presidential election, all of the other congressional races, there was a lot of noise out there that competed with our message. And the other side was more organized this time than last time around. We knew it would be an uphill battle.”

Wiggins was appointed in 2003 by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack. He honored Iowa’s long tradition in which justices do not raise money or actively campaign but appeared at schools, in churches and civic groups to talk about the court’s history of supporting equal rights dating back to rulings against slavery and segregation and for women’s rights in the 1800s — decades before the country reached consensus on those positions.

State Supreme Court justices must stand for retention the first year after they are appointed and then every eight years. They must receive a simple majority vote to stay in office.

Three other justices appointed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad last year to replace those ousted in 2010 easily won retention.


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