COUNCIL BLUFFS — Iowa State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said he was willing to lose his seat over the issue of same-sex marriage.
Council Bluffs voters made sure Tuesday night that he wouldn't have to do that.
Gronstal, a Democrat, defeated his Republican opponent, retired Air Force officer Al Ringgenberg, by 10 percentage points.
Gronstal attributed his victory to the hard work of volunteers and his door-to-door effort to reach voters.
“I hit 13,000 doors in this campaign,” said Gronstal, who has served in the Legislature nearly 30 years. “That's kind of how I won my first race and how I've won every race I've run since.”
Gronstal and Ringgenberg competed for the seat representing District 8, which makes up most of Council Bluffs and all of Carter Lake.
Late Tuesday, Ringgenberg said he was surprised by the outcome but vowed to serve the community.
“I'm a military guy, so you serve because you feel a duty to get involved and try to make a difference,” Ringgenberg said. “Where the Lord may close a door, He'll leave a window open.”
Gronstal has been an avid opponent of a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. The House, controlled by Republicans, has called for a statewide vote, but Gronstal used his position as majority leader to block Senate debate on the issue.
Gronstal's stance made him a symbol of Republican frustrations as the GOP tried to gain control of the Senate, where Democrats held a slim majority going into Tuesday.
Ringgenberg ran on a socially conservative platform, opposing abortion. He wants the Iowa Constitution amended to ban same-sex marriage.
Gronstal has lived in Council Bluffs nearly all his life. He graduated from St. Albert High School and has worked at several jobs locally. He first entered the Iowa House following the 1982 election. He soon advanced to the Senate and has been the Democratic leader there since 1997.
Ringgenberg is a Perry, Iowa, native who returned to the Midwest and settled in Council Bluffs after he retired from the Air Force in 2004. He worked as a civilian at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue until last year when he entered the campaign.
In other western Iowa legislative races:
» Mark Segebart, a Republican of rural Vail, defeated Mary Bruner of Carroll, a Democrat, in the District 6 race for Senate.
» In House District 12, incumbent Dan Muhlbauer, a Democrat, fended off a challenge from Republican candidate Barney Bornhoft of Carroll to represent three rural western-Iowa counties. Muhlbauer, a Manilla-area farmer, has carved out a niche for himself as an agriculture expert in his two years as a legislator.
» In Council Bluffs, voters returned Republican incumbents Mark Brandenburg, District 15, and Mary Ann Hanusa, District 16, to the Iowa House.
With Democrats likely to hold on to their slim majority in the Iowa Senate, Gronstal said he wants to reach agreements with Republicans on commercial property taxes and other issues.
The majority leader said he plans to tell Senate Democrats: “This election is over now. Forget any real or perceived slights over these last months of the campaign and be about common ground and moving Iowa forward.”
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