College economics instructor Dave Mulder said education was the key issue that led to the defeat of his opponent, Iowa state senator Ken Veenstra of Orange City, in Tuesday's District 2 Republican primary. But political pundits in the state are arguing that Veenstra, an assistant majority leader in the state senate, lost because his campaign was based primarily on antigay issues, something Iowa voters had no taste for. Veenstra led an unsuccessful fight in the last legislative session to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in the state, and he was instrumental in the defeat of a gay nominee to the state board of education. "Part of the reason for his high-profile antigay efforts in the legislature seemed to be a desire to bolster his standing with social conservatives in the heavily Republican northwest Iowa district," wrote columnist David Yepsen in The Des Moines Register. "But GOP strategists said Wednesday the tactic didn't work."
Mulder, who'll retire from his college teaching job to focus full-time on the senate, said public school educators helped him win. "I'm very strong for education, so I think I got very strong teacher support," he said. "I'm interested in both public and private education. You have to work for both." Veenstra agreed that public school supporters won the day. "They have the most influence and the most numbers," he said. In Tuesday's polling Mulder won by a margin of 54% to 46% and will advance to November. No Democrat has stepped forward.