Iowa Democrats on Wednesday selected
Liz Mathis for a Senate race likely to determine whether gay marriage
is debated in the chamber.
Mathis, 53, a former news anchor, is
the Democrats' nominee for a special November 8 Senate race for the
seat being vacated by Democratic State Senator Swati Dandekar.
Senate District 18 predominantly votes Republican.
The Democrat-controlled Senate, under
the leadership of Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, has kept an
effort to repeal the state's gay marriage law at bay. In February,
the Republican-controlled House approved a measure that seeks to put
a question on the ballot that would define marriage in the Iowa
Constitution as a heterosexual union – and thereby reverse the 2009
Iowa Supreme Court ruling that brought gay marriage to the Midwest.
Gronstal has vowed to block the measure
from reaching the Senate floor.
But Republican Governor Terry
Branstad's appointment of Dandekar to the Iowa Utilities Board could
result in Democrats losing their one-seat Senate majority. And by
extension, stripping Gronstal of power. In previous sessions where
the Senate was divided, leaders from both parties took turns on
alternating weeks running the chamber.
Branstad has dismissed suggestions that
the appointment was political.
Mathis will face Republican rival Cindy
Golding in what is expected to become a heated contest. Neither
woman has previously held elected office, but in 2002 Golding, 58,
ran for the Iowa House.
During an informal interview with Iowa
Politics, Mathis said she supported “the judges approval, the
judge's upholding of the constitution.”