Conservatives fail to oust judges in Iowa and Florida

Right-wing groups, some backed by the Koch brothers, lost a campaign to vote out state Supreme Court justices

By Jillian Rayfield
November 8, 2012 2:11AM (UTC)
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Supreme Court justices in Iowa and Florida held onto their seats last night, despite campaigns by conservative groups to vote them out because they ruled in ways that were unpopular with the right.

Both states have a policy called merit retention, where voters can decide whether to keep or vote out judges at the end of their terms.


In Iowa, Justice David Wiggins won retention, despite a campaign by social conservative groups to push him out for his ruling to strike down a ban on gay marriage in 2009.

The Des Moines Register reports that Bob Van Der Plaats, head of Iowans For Freedom, the group behind the campaign, said that although Wiggins kept his seat, it was by a small enough margin that he shouldn't be celebrating. “I think the courts understand that people of Iowa still have a voice if they chose to go outside their constitutional boundaries.”

In 2010, Van Der Plaats and other conservative groups succeessuflly ousted three of the other seven judges who had ruled  unanimously on the gay marriage law.


In Florida, the Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity and the state Republican party failed to get rid of three state Supreme Court justices, who they argued were "extreme" and "activist" in their rulings. One decision that the right didn't particularly like involved the state's attempt to block the Affordable Care Act, which the judges ruled against.

R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince all kept their seats by overwhelming margins, the Palm Beach Post reports. Lewis said in a statement: “The very foundation of Florida’s independent judicial system was threatened in this election. I am grateful that Florida voters once again demonstrated their faith in our fair and impartial judicial system."

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2012 Elections Americans For Prosperity Florida Gay Marriage Health Care Iowa Koch Brothers