In 2004, Democrats managed to win enough races to tie Republicans for the number of seats in the Iowa state senate. Control of any body of the state legislature in Iowa is crucial not only to help the people in that state, but also because Iowa is such an important state in Presidential primaries and elections.
Obviously, Republicans are making a concerted effort to win back the state senate. Through focusing on Iowa state senate district 31, you can help keep this race in Democratic hands. But the story is more complicated than just Democrat vs. Republican. This starts with the primary battle between incumbent Democratic senator Matt McCoy and his opponent, Gary Randa...
has served as the district's senator for 10 years. Per the bio:
Matt is known in Iowa for his work on education, health care and job creation. In 2005 he helped secure $56 million to reduce class size and improve teacher quality. He also worked with Gov. Vilsack to increase spending on early childhood education. Matt secured the first ever appropriation for AIDS medications from the Iowa government, helped expand mental health insurance parity laws, and successfully helped eliminate a $66 million shortfall in the state's Medicaid program.
McCoy came out in 2003. This is his first race as an openly gay elected official.
He is near the end of a very tough primary with millionaire Gary Randa. Randa cites attendance record as one issue (McCoy missed some days in 2003 because his father had cancer and he took 2 days off to run in the Boston Marathon), but social issues seem to be the real story here. A comparison:
- Gay marriage - Randa favors putting Iowa's statutory ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution.
"I have a son that's gay, and I love him dearly," he said, "but I think marriage is between a man and a woman."
McCoy opposes a constitutional amendment, which would require the approval of two consecutive legislatures as well as voter ratification.
"I don't think the Legislature should involve itself in legislating who people love," he said.
- Abortion - McCoy supports abortion rights. Randa believes abortion should be illegal except in instances where the mother's life is in jeopardy.
"I don't think debate about abortion belongs on the floor of the Iowa Legislature," McCoy said. "I think that's a decision that should be left between a woman and her physician."
Said Randa: "To me, there are a lot of issues out there. But the one that I want to take to my grave when they bring me down to St. Anthony's (Catholic Church) and wheel me up in front of that altar is that I tried to make a difference for those children."
- Death penalty - Randa supports restoring the death sentence in Iowa for heinous crimes such as the abduction, rape and murder of a child.
"That guy that killed that little girl in Cedar Rapids, I could sleep pretty easy tonight knowing that he was not here any more," said Randa, referring to the slaying of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage in March 2005.
McCoy is opposed to capital punishment, saying it's not a deterrent to crime, and juries sometimes make mistakes in condemning an innocent person to death.
It's very nice that Randa loves his gay son, but the Iowa amendment will likely ban most legal contracts for gay couples. Not just marriage. Loving a child who is gay does not give someone a free pass on supporting legislation that will do great harm to gays and their families.
The Democrat who wins this race will face Nick Van Patten, currently elected to the County Hospital Board. Van Patten will probably be a very strong candidate. This race could tip control of the Iowa senate into Republican hands if Van Patten wins.
Aside from supporting McCoy based on his progressive beliefs, he also has an important position in the IA senate, as co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. This will be a tough election year in Iowa, with the competitive races for governor and several Congressional seats. McCoy is an experienced campaigner with a great deal of clout. He is also a strong contrast to Van Patten.
Please support Matt McCoy. The primary is not even a week away and every dollar will count. I know that the federal elections are more exciting and grab more headlines, but the states have most of the power now in what goes on. Your money will go a LONG way in helping progressives and Democrats have an edge not only in this year's Iowa elections, but potentially in many elections down the road.