A Democratic exit from the state House of Representatives over a gun control bill in February led to some verbal sparring between Republican candidate Matt Alcazar and state Rep. Helen Miller during a Tuesday evening forum.
Miller, D-Fort Dodge, said the chamber's Democrats felt it was an appropriate response after the House Republican leaders surprised them with a revised gun control bill.
''There was no reason to leave the Statehouse,'' said Alcazar, a Republican from Fort Dodge who's challenging Miller for the House District 9 seat.
The two also offered differing opinions on term limits for elected officials and voter identification requirements during a forum sponsored by the Well-Informed Webster People.
Miller touted her work during 10 years in the House on economic development, the widening of U.S. Highway 20 to four lanes, the creation of the Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park and the creation of the fuel testing lab at Iowa Central Community College.
Alcazar said he wants to create a smaller, less intrusive state government. He added that he wants to maintain Iowans' liberties and restore some that he said have been lost.
When a member of the audience asked him to name a liberty that has been lost, Alcazar replied ''We've lost several liberties. If you don't know what you've lost you haven't lost anything.''
He did not name any specific liberties.
The sharpest exchange between the two candidates came in the closing minutes of the forum when Alcazar said Miller had missed 20 percent of the 245 votes cast in the House this year.
Miller interrupted him to say her absences were related to the death of her husband.
''I don't think you should go there,'' she said. ''That isn't right.''
Miller's husband, Dr. Ed Miller, died of cancer on Nov. 24, 2010.
The two candidates are vying to represent House District 9, which includes Badger, Clare, Duncombe, Fort Dodge, Vincent and rural areas of northern Webster County.
The race is a rematch of the 2010 election in which Miller defeated Alcazar in the former House District 49. Miller is seeking her sixth term.
About 60 people attended the forum in the Light of the City Conference Center, 2175 180th St.
On Feb. 28, Democratic members of the House of Representatives walked out of the House chamber after being surprised by the Republican-written gun control bill. In February, Miller said the measure would allow people to ''pretty much take a gun anywhere you want.''
House leaders decide in advance what bills are going to be debated on any given day. Lawmakers are given a list of those bills.
According to Miller, that precedent was broken that day for the first time in the decade she's been in office. She said Tuesday that the Democrats decided they needed to meet to decide what to do and also decided that the meeting should be outside of the Capitol. They left at about 10 a.m. and returned at 4 p.m.
Alcazar said Tuesday that the move was ''nothing more than a political stunt.''
''If that's what you want than by all means stay with what you have,'' he told the audience.
When asked about term limits, Alcazar was brief, saying only that he supports them.
Miller said that in states that have term limits on their elected officials, the unelected bureaucrats essentially end up running the government because there aren't any experienced lawmakers.
''If the electorate wants someone gone, they'll make it happen,'' she said.
Alcazar said he supports the idea of requiring people to show a photo identification in order to vote.
Miller said there are ''very, very few voter fraud cases.'' She added that a photo ID requirement may prevent some elderly people from voting.
Fort Dodge is among the Iowa cities that uses an automatic camera and radar system to to enforce the speed limit. A bill to ban such systems was approved by the House on April 2, but was killed by state Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, who declined to bring the measure up for debate in that chamber.
Miller voted against the House bill. She also unsuccessully introduced an amendment that called for a study of the systems and would prevent any more communities from acquiring them.
Alcazar opposes traffic cameras. He said Americans have the right to confront their accusers, not ''clockwork and lenses.''
Miller said she's concerned about the growing use of cameras. But she also cited an incident in which a camera was key to identifying a driver who struck and killed a girl.
''I am on the fence somewhat at this point,'' she said.
Supreme Court justice retention
In the November election, voters will decide if Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins will remain on the bench. Wiggins supported the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.
Three other justices who supported the decision were rejected by the voters in 2010, and an organized effort to unseat Wiggins is under way.
Alcazar said he's favor of removing Wiggins from the bench.
''I will support anyone who does want to vote them out,'' he said.
He said the justices took on an ''activist agenda'' when they legalized same-sex marriage.
Miller said she supports the same-sex marriage ruling and the right of citizens to vote on the retention of judges and justices.