Monday, November 7, 2011

Running scared

Candidates in the Iowa Senate District 18 race really have a monkey on their backs: Their respective political parties. As you've maybe heard by now, the outcome of Tuesday's special election in Linn County could be really important. Republican Cindy Golding and Democrat Liz Mathis both say they're focused on issues of particular importance to the district and its residents. It seems like they probably can't help but feel the pressure from their political parties, though. In recent elections, Democrats have lost the governor's mansion, control of the House and their grasp on the Senate has gotten to the slimmest of margins. Well, if Mathis loses this election, their margin will be its slimmest. They'll have the same number of senators as the Republicans, meaning they will have to share control in some fashion. It'll also change the chamber's dynamic since even getting all Democrats to vote the same way won't guarentee passage of a bill. With the possibility of tie votes, senators will have to work harder on compromise. Sounds like Democrats are teetering on the edge of "political irrelevance." While Republicans will be in the same boat, a victory Tuesday may feel like one more step toward "complete power." They've already taken control of the House and Republican Terry Branstad is governor. A victory may give Republicans the power they need to force debate on gay marriage, which could eventually result in putting a referendum before voters on an amendment outlawing the Supreme Court-approved practice in Iowa. It seems like Gov. Branstad may have had  ulterior motives for appointing former seatholder, Democrat Swati Dandekar, to the Iowa Utilities Board., which required her to give up the Senate posititon. In the meantime, the two people actually at the center of this race are toeing the party line on the topic of gay marriage, while insisting that's not their focus. In fact, they're even coming out with similar-sounding blase positions on other issues of statewide significance, like a gas tax increase. Both say it shouldn't be raised in spite of reports on the extremely poor condition of the state's bridges, which would benefit from the increased revenues. Any wrong move could put them at a disadvantage when voters step into their polling places. Hmmm, maybe the candidates are as scared as their respective political parties about how this election could turn out.