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Liz Mathis (Courtesy Photo)

HIAWATHA, Iowa --- Liz Mathis promised to work hard for Linn County Democrats and "do all I can to promote jobs and business and promote education" if elected to fill a vacancy in Iowa Senate District 18.

"I'm going to work really hard for you when I win," the former television anchorwoman said after being nominated Wednesday night at a convention of Linn County Democrats.

The district covers the northern and western areas of the county.

Mathis, 53, spent 16 years at KWWL-TV in Waterloo and as anchor, reporter and producer at KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids from 1998 to 2007.

Now she's chief information officer for Four Oaks, a child welfare and juvenile justice agency, overseeing legislative advocacy, public relations, marketing and development.

Mathis will face Republican Cindy Golding in a special election Nov. 8 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Sen. Swati Dandekar, a Marion Democrat, who accepted Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board.

Golding is a rural Cedar Rapids farmer and business owner who has been a legislative liaison for the Farm Bureau and National Federation of Independent Business.

The election has special significance for Democrats, who hold a 26-24 majority in the Senate. With Republicans controlling the governor's office and Iowa House, Mathis is the Democrats' last line of defense against the GOP dominating state government.

A key legislative issue has been the effort by opponents of same-sex marriage to put the issue on the ballot. Golding has indicated she would support letting Iowans vote to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. In April 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state law banning same-sex marriages.

"As most Iowans ...I uphold the judges' decision," Mathis said.

She believes people from outside Iowa are trying to make gay marriage an issue in the race.

"I have to say the people of District 18 are concerned about jobs and business growth and education," she said.

Golding also focused her attention on job growth. A Republican win would break Democrats' "stranglehold" on legislation and allow the GOP to advance its agenda of tax and budget issues to create a climate more conducive to business growth and job creation, she said.

However, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said at the nominating convention that if the Senate is deadlocked, neither party may be able to advance issues.

"If you're in the majority, you set the agenda," Dvorsky. "It's clear to me after having served in the majority and the minority and when the Senate was tied that it's important to be in the majority or else you just play defense."

Democratic control of the Senate is critical for having leverage in negotiations with GOP Gov. Terry Branstad, added Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids.

Voter registration numbers give a slight edge to Republicans. According to the Iowa Secretary of State, there are 15,945 Republicans, 15,752 Democrats and 19,873 no-party voters in the district.

The two House seats in Senate 18 are held by Republicans - House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha and Rep. Nick Wagner of Marion.

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