A Steve King radio ad and other judicial retention vote news

The big purple Judge Bus completed its Iowa tour on October 28, but the groups urging Iowans to oust three Supreme Court justices aren’t winding down their voter persuasion efforts. Representative Steve King has recorded a radio commercial asking Iowans to “send a message against judicial arrogance.”

The ad script is after the jump, along with news on the Judge Bus and the “Homegrown Justice” events, which called on Iowans to retain all the judges on the ballot.

The Judge Bus website posted the audio clip of their new radio ad against the judges. My transcript:

Hi. This is Congressman Steve King. I was an author of Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act, which by law defined the covenant of marriage to be exclusively between one man and one woman. Last year, the Iowa Supreme Court defied our Constitution and the will of the people by imposing same-sex marriage on Iowa. In their decree, the judges actually admitted they had created a right that was unimagined in the Constitution that they and I have sworn to uphold. When judges confer unimagined rights, it’s time to remove them, because judges with the audacity to create unimagined rights will also take your rights away. These activist judges even threaten your constitutional right to remove them. On November second, flip your ballot over, vote “no” on Judges Ternus, Streit and Baker. This election, send a message against judicial arrogance. I’m Congressman Steve King. Enough is enough. Vote no, no and no.

Male voice-over: Paid for by FRC Action.

FRC Action is affiliated with the Family Research Council. I am seeking information about where they have placed this ad. UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Judge Bus tour told me the radio spot is running statewide.

King’s central message–activist judges will take all your rights away–isn’t new. Most Iowans have probably heard the same warning from television commercials targeting Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker. The second of those commercials is still in heavy rotation in Des Moines and (I assume) other major Iowa media markets. King’s claim that judges “threaten your constitutional right to remove them” may refer to recent speeches by Ternus. She has warned that the anti-retention campaign threatens judicial independence (see also here).

As I wrote a few days ago, I consider it a huge tactical error to put King at the center of the battle against retaining the Supreme Court justices. He must be the most polarizing person in Iowa politics. This radio commercial will reach many thousands of people outside King’s loyal conservative following. Inadvertently, he may be reminding those people to flip the ballot over and vote yes.

King stayed with the Judge Bus all week, but in several locations the rallies attracted sparse crowds. In Sioux City on Tuesday, about 30 people turned up for the Judge Bus, while 50 attended the Homegrown Justice event supporting a “yes” vote on the judges. In Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, about 20 people turned up for the Judge Bus, while at least 150 people attended the Homegrown Justice rally. Later the same day, fewer than two dozen turned up in Clinton for the Judge Bus.

The pro-judge group Fair Courts for Us was smart to schedule events nearby and close in time to all the Judge Bus rallies in larger Iowa cities. Doing so ensured that local news reports presented both sides’ talking points in their write-ups. In Sioux City, Bob Vander Plaats’ former campaign treasurer, attorney Dan Moore, was among the speakers supporting the judges:

“The actions that are being taken by the ‘No vote’ advocates are, at best, it is arbitrary and reactionary to the Supreme Court case; at worst, it is a retaliatory action. There are other avenues to take to address the court decision, such as a constitutional amendment,” Moore said Tuesday.

Speakers at Fair Courts for Us events this week also offered a public-safety argument against the “no” campaign.

The 74 names on this election’s retention ballot include the three justices, five Court of Appeals judges, and 66 district court judges.

The Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges will appear on statewide ballots. District Court judges stand for retention only in the judicial sub-districts where they preside.

Removing all 74 judges would seriously restrict the flow of cases through state courts, said Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Eugene Meyer.

Iowa courts processed nearly 23,000 felony cases, 721,000 misdemeanors and 22,000 operating while intoxicated cases in 2009, according to the Fair Courts for Us campaign.

District Court Judge Robert Hanson, who issued a ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act in August 2007, told WHO television in Des Moines that losing dozens of judges would have a “crippling effect” on Iowa courts. Former Lieutenant Governor Art Neu, a Republican, struck a similar tone:

“The removal of judges across Iowa would shut down entire communities and shut down our legal system,” Neu said. “I don’t think any of us can contemplate the break down of our judicial system should anything close to what they’re proposing take place.”

King said said the “no” campaign was targeting only two lower-court judges (Hanson and the Sioux City “lesbian divorce” Judge Jeffrey Neary) along with the three Supreme Court justices. An Iowa-based conservative group is paying for robocalls against Hanson and Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg. Meanwhile, Iowa Family Policy Center leader Chuck Hurley has been telling supporters to vote against retaining all judges, because none of them will answer his organization’s questionnaire: “I can’t in good conscience vote to rehire a judge I don’t know much about.”

The National Organization for Marriage has spent more money than any other group against the Supreme Court judges. Most of the spending supports broadcast media advertising, but on October 28, I received a voter identification and mobilization robocall from National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown.

I still haven’t seen any numbers from the poll on retention for which I was a respondent a few weeks ago. The Des Moines Register reported this week on a different poll by Shaw & Company Research, which found that 36 percent of Iowa voters supported retention while 35 percent were opposed. I wouldn’t put too much faith in that poll. The sample size was small (309 respondents statewide), leading to a fairly large margin of error, plus or minus 5.66 percent. In addition, Shaw & Company sampled registered voters rather than likely voters two weeks before the election.

Any comments on the judicial retention vote are welcome in this thread. Who has had the better strategy: the “yes” or “no” advocates? Would a wave of “no” votes on Ternus, Streit and Baker sweep away dozens of lower-court judges? Will Steve King’s voice on the radio help or hurt his cause?

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