Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Liz Mathis Wins State Senate District 18

Report from KCRG-TV9

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Linn County voters extended Democratic control of the Iowa Senate by electing Liz Mathis to fill a vacant seat in Iowa Senate 18.

According to unofficial results from the Linn County Auditor’s Office, Mathis defeated Republican Cindy Golding 13,184 to 10,283 in the district that wraps around northern and western Linn County.

Mathis, 53, best known for more than a quarter century as an Eastern Iowa television news reporter and anchor, made jobs, improving the business climate and education the basis of her campaign. Now she is the chief information officer for Four Oaks, a child welfare and juvenile justice agency where she oversees legislative advocacy, public relations, marketing and development.

Throughout the campaign for the seat vacated when Marion Democrat Swati Dandekar resigned to accept Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board, Mathis talked about ending gridlock in the Senate, where Democrats will maintain a 26-24 advantage.

Without offering specifics, Mathis touted a five-point plan to create Iowa jobs and promised to work with Republicans to enact her proposals.

She called for giving Iowa companies first crack at state and local contract, “so our tax dollars create jobs here – not in China;” cutting small business property taxes by $300 million; offering businesses a $2,000 tax credit for each new Iowa hire; more tax incentives to attract high-tech employers; and stopping “cuts to our classrooms.”

Mathis and her husband, Mark, who owns the advertising agency ME&V, live near Robins and have two children. She grew up on an Iowa farm and is a University of Iowa graduate.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Democrats “recruited well” in nominating Mathis.

“The voters of this district, when presented a choice, chose the Democrat,” Gronstal said. “This is a Republican-leaning district. I think it signals some good news for us.”

Branstad downplayed the significance of Tuesday’s outcome and called the race an uphill battle given Mathis’ strong name recognition.

Gronstal said it was clear that Republicans had a strategy to capture the seat and knot the chamber at 25-25 but that strategy backfired.

“This was their hand-picked race,” Gronstal said. “They chose to appoint a Democrat from the Senate, a Democrat that came from a district they believed they would be able to win. Now they’re saying, well, it doesn’t really mean anything. That’s nonsense.”

Branstad attributed Democrats’ success to their ability to recruit a candidate who was “very well known” and that name recognition advantage trumped Golding’s “great background and great business experience.”

“The Democrats have way outspent the Republicans in this special election and, you know when you look at special elections, they are not much of an indicator. They’re an indicator of that particular district at that point in time. So I don’t think people should read too much into it but obviously we’ll see,” the governor said.

Sen. Steve Kettering, R-Lake View, said the issues “were clearly” with Golding who was an excellent candidate and worked hard, but Mathis had “star power” that carried the day.

“Mathis was a part of the living room in that district for a number of years,” he said. Kettering said he doubted much would change in the Senate in the upcoming session now that Democrats have retained their 26-24 advantage through the 2012 election.