FAIRFIELD, Iowa (BP)–A Republican candidate strongly endorsed by a leading pro-family group lost a special Iowa state House race by roughly 100 votes Tuesday in a campaign that both sides of the “gay marriage” battle were watching closely.
Democrat Curt Hanson defeated Republican Stephen Burgmeier 48.8-47.5 percent, or 107 votes out of 8,046 cast in the special race for House District 90, a rural district in southeastern Iowa. The National Organization for Marriage — a group that fights to prevent the redefinition of marriage — endorsed Burgmeier and spent $86,000 in television and radio ads supporting him. Fairness Fund Political Action Committee, an Iowa homosexual activist group, endorsed Hanson and worked on the ground in the final days of the campaign to get out his votes.
Burgmeier’s supporters took solace in the fact that a GOP candidate came so close to winning in the Democratic-leaning district. Hanson will replace Democratic Rep. John Whitaker, who resigned to become head of the Iowa State Farm Service Agency.
The race gained national prominence mainly due to the Iowa Supreme Court’s April ruling legalizing “gay marriage.” Tuesday’s race was the first House or Senate race since that ruling. Democratic leaders in both chambers have blocked efforts to put a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot, and conservatives hope to elect enough strong supporters of the amendment — primarily during next year’s races — to influence the issue.
As a Jefferson County supervisor, Burgmeier proposed a resolution several months back that passed unanimously supporting a marriage amendment. He also has pledged to support an amendment if elected to the House.
Technically, Hanson also says he supports putting a marriage amendment on the ballot, but conservatives doubted his commitment, being that “gay marriage” groups endorsed him and he hasn’t stated whether he himself would vote for it if it were on the ballot.
The race was the first step in the National Organization for Marriage’s Reclaim Iowa Project to reverse the legislature’s opposition to an amendment. A July poll of 500 registered voters by Voter/Consumer Research suggested that 67 percent of voters support placing a marriage amendment on the ballot.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Michael Foust.