The Gazette Editorial Board
The voters of Iowa Senate District 18 face a difficult, high-stakes decision Tuesday.
They will decide who fills a seat vacated by former Sen. Swati Dandekar, D-Marion, who accepted an offer from Gov. Terry Branstad to join the Iowa Utilities Board. With Democrats currently holding a slim one-seat majority in the Senate, the special election will decide whether that majority holds or if the Senate will be tied 25-25.
The campaign has been a six-week whirlwind for Republican hopeful Cindy Golding, a rural Cedar Rapids businesswoman, and Liz Mathis of Robins, communications director for Four Oaks, a child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health agency.
Mathis was once a news anchor for KCRG-TV9, owned by the same company that owns this newspaper. The lone member of our editorial board who worked directly with Mathis, Becky Lutgen Gardner, recused herself from our endorsement vote.
We see both strengths and weaknesses in each candidate.
Golding has a strong grasp of issues related to business growth, including the need for regulatory and property tax reforms aimed at stirring investment. Golding and her husband own four businesses, including a farming operation that gives her insights into the challenges facing Iowa agriculture.
Mathis appears to have a stronger grasp of education issues as the Legislature prepares to take up Branstad’s sweeping school reform blueprint in January. Mathis’ work on child welfare and with the Department of Human Services gives her a good understanding of the need for mental health care reform, another big issue at the Statehouse.
We were disappointed by Mathis’ lack of specifics and substance on economic issues, and Golding’s reliance on assorted anecdotes she’s heard from “teacher friends” when it comes to education. We understand that a short campaign can make it difficult to master complex issues and craft detailed policy proposals.
Still, we believe Mathis has the communication skills and capacity to grow into the job, build relationships and become a strong advocate for her district. We fear that Golding’s more strident stands will make it harder for her to reach across the aisle and forge the compromises that will be needed in a closely divided Legislature.
We’re also troubled by Golding’s call for holding a vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in Iowa. This editorial page has stood strongly for the right of gay and lesbian Iowans to enjoy civil marriage rights. The fact that Golding would risk those constitutional rights in a divisive public vote to, as she said, take the “spotlight” off Iowa, gave us pause.
In the end, it was a close call. But we think Mathis is the right choice.
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