ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Mayor Deb De Haan easily beat back a challenge from Dr. Kurt Korver in a race highlighted by a public dispute over gay rights in the traditionally conservative city.
De Haan, a three-term incumbent, captured 76 percent of the vote, compared to 24 percent for Korver in heavy turnout in the Sioux County seat of about 6,100.
De Haan exhaled deeply during an interview with the Journal just before 9 p.m., when results became final.
“(I’m) relieved, humbled and incredibly supported by the citizens of Orange City,” De Haan said.
A group called the Sioux County Conservatives backed Korver and two city council challengers - James Vondrak and Perry Borchard - who trailed the voting in the six-candidate council race Tuesday. The conservative group argued the incumbents were not doing enough to speak out against an Orange City Pride festival that featured drag queen and king performers.
Councilmen Daron De Jong and Tony Vande Brake were re-elected with 30 and 23 percent of the vote, respectively, while challenger Aaron Beadner narrowly edged Lisa Burg for the third seat by 39 votes.
A total of 2,379 residents cast votes in the mayor's race, which one veteran political observer said was five to six times greater than a typical municipal election and approached the level of a gubernatorial election.
De Haan, the first woman to serve as Orange City mayor, said there is no doubt the higher turnout was driven by Korver making gay rights the major focus of his campaign, which she asserted people did not like.
Korver, an ear, nose and throat physician, argued residents were concerned about the "homosexual and transgender agenda being pushed on our children and in the library." Last year, a group of residents pushed the city's library board to segregate library materials containing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning -- or LBGTQ -- themes.
Korver and the Sioux County Conservatives also complained about the city's response to an annual pro-LGBT festival that they claimed violated Orange City's code of conduct policy. Specifically, they objected to drag queen and kings performing during the OC Pride festival at the city-owned Prairie Winds Event Center.
De Haan, the first woman to serve as Orange City mayor, said it's unfortunate Korver has focused on LBGTQ issue as "his main reason for running." De Haan since she'd rather focus on issues such as broadening the city's housing stock and extending a recreation trail.
"We are so much more than a single issue...As a mayor, you have to be respectful to all your citizens," De Haan, whose father, Robert Dunlop served as mayor for 32 years, said in an interview before the election.
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