Vander Plaats nixes independent bid, wants justices ousted

DES MOINES – Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats today ruled out an independent bid for governor in the Nov. 2 general election and instead said he will spearhead an effort to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of an April 2009 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in Iowa.

Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman who finished second to former Gov. Terry Branstad in the June 8 primary election, also said he was not making any candidate endorsements at this time.

Vander Plaats said a court ruling earlier this week in California that reversed a public vote against gay marriage in that state convinced him that an effort is needed to begin to bring into check judges who attempt to legislate or thwart the will of the people from the bench.

“If they will do this with marriage, every other one of your freedoms is up for grabs,” Vander Plaats told a news conference held on the steps of the Iowa Judicial Building, home of the Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

“I believe we need to hold the court in check,” he told reporters.

To that end, he said he plans to muster the resources, forces and passion needed to convince voters not to reject Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Associate Justices Michael Streit and David Baker when they come up for retention votes on the November ballot. He also said he plans to continue working in subsequent elections to defeat the other four justices who were part of the unanimous decision that struck down a state law that defined marriage in Iowa as only between one man and one woman.

More than 2,500 same-sex marriages have been performed in Iowa since the April 2009 decision. Opponents are pushing for an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that defines marriage only as between one man and one woman but Vander Plaats said today that the California ruling throws that effort into question and it is time to concentrate on maintain “a healthy separation of power” among the three braches of government.

“For too long, we’ve allowed the courts to overstep their authority and there was no clearer example of that than the April 3, 2009 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court on same-sex marriage,” he said. “The issues of separation of power and judicial activism are important to me and my followers and that’s why we’re going to work to restore the balance between the branches of our government.”

Vander Plaats said he will be releasing more details about his efforts to unseat the Supreme Court justices next week.

“I can tell you this, though, we will run a very focused, grassroots campaign and the results are going to send a signal across this country that we’re not going to let appointed judges usurp the will of the people any longer,” he said.

Steve Davis, a spokesman for the Iowa Supreme Court, said none of the three justices targeted by the campaign were available today.

Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s largest organization representing gays and lesbians, said she did not believe an effort that appeared to be motivated by spite over one court decision would be helpful to Iowans. She also questioned whether the anti-retention vote campaign would be funded “by out-of-state extremists.”

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