Gingrich, Pawlenty weigh in on campaign to oust Iowa judges

Two potential Republican presidential contenders in 2012 are wading into a campaign to oust three Iowa judges who were part of last year's ruling that threw out a ban on same-sex marriage.

Former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats (R), who lost his party's nomination to former Gov. Terry Branstad (R), is organizing an effort to defeat the three state supreme court justices this fall. 

All three judges face a retention vote in November, which means they don't have opponents, but voters do have a "yes" or "no" option on the ballot as to whether they should remain on the state's high court. 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) have both expressed a level of support for the campaign led by Vander Plaats.   

Speaking at the Iowa State Fair Thursday, Pawlenty said he would have to study the specific records of the judges to make a judgment on them individually. But he called it "the right and privilege of the citizens of this state to weigh in on whether they like or don't like the job that a judge is doing and to agree or disagree with him," according to the AP.

Gingrich, meanwhile, told an Iowa radio station that "Iowans are unique in that they have the ability this fall to send a very clear and simple message that the court’s behavior is unacceptable by just voting ‘no’ on the three judges who are up for reappointment.” 

In the GOP primary for governor, Gingrich, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, endorsed Branstad over Vander Plaats. 

After his defeat in the primary, Vander Plaats considered an independent bid for governor before announcing he would focus his energy on ousting Iowa judges in 2010. Vander Plaats has not endorsed Branstad in the general election.

Neither Palin nor Romney have weighed in yet on the effort Vander Plaats is waging.