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2017 ELECTION RECAP: BIG CHANGES IN IOWA LEGISLATURE

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Election night was a big one for Republicans - they won the Presidency (Donald Trump), now control 239 of the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, and have a slim majority (51 of the 100 seats) in the US Senate.  All of Iowa’s current Congressional delegation was re-elected: US Senator Charles Grassley; US Representative Rod Blum; US Representative Steve King; US Representative Dave Loebsack; and US Representative David Young.

Voters wanted change, and we have no further to look than inside our own State Capitol.  Republicans took control of the Iowa Senate, and continue to have control of the Iowa House and the Governor's office.  Some are calling this the "trifecta" - a gambling term the Urban Dictionary defines as "a perfect group of three."   Here is a quick recap of the elections in Iowa: 

STATE SENATE.  There will be seven new faces in the Iowa Senate – one Democrat (Nate Boulton, who replaces retiring Des Moines Senator Dick Dearden) and six Republicans:

  1. Former State Rep. Mark Lofgren beat first-term Sen. Chris Brase (Muscatine).
  2. Pharmacist Tom Greene defeated Sen. Tom Courtney (Burlington).
  3. Law enforcement officer Dan Dawson beat Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (Council Bluffs).
  4. Event center/museum director Craig Johnson (Independence) beat Sen. Brian Schoenjahn (Arlington).
  5. Family farmer and electric coop leader Jeff Edler defeated Sen. Steve Sodders (State Center).
  6. Family farmer Waylon Brown (St. Ansgar) beat Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm (Cresco).

Before this election, Democrats narrowly controlled the Iowa Senate (26 Democrats; 23 Republicans; 1 Independent).  Sen. David Johnson changed his party affiliation to Independent this summer, in protest over the things said by Donald Trump during the campaign.  It is not yet known whether Sen. David Johnson will rejoin the Republican Party, or stay an Independent.  Republicans will now have control of the Iowa Senate with 29 seats (29 Republicans -19 Democrats - 1 Independent - 1 vacant seat). 

Senate Democrats will have one more seat to defend this year (the vacant seat).  A special election will be held on December 27, 2016 to fill Sen. Joe Seng’s seat. Sen. Seng (Davenport) was not up for re-election this year, and died of cancer in late September.  Republicans have nominated Mike Gonzales, a Le Claire police officer.  Democrats will pick their nominee in a few days; both Rep. Jim Lykam and Rep. Cindy Winckler are rumored to want it.  If either of them is elected, that will trigger another special election to fill their seat.  This seat is expected to remain in Democratic control, but if this election has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

New leadership means new committee chairs and a new leadership team.  Republicans met this weekend to elect new leaders:

  • Senate Majority Leader: Sen. Bill Dix  (Shell Rock)
  • President of the Senate: Sen. Jack Whitver (Ankeny)
  • President Pro Temp: Sen. Jerry Behn (Boone)
  • Majority Whip: Sen. Charles Schneider (West Des Moines)
  • Assistant Majority Leaders:  Sen. Michael Breitbach (Strawberry Point), Sen. Randy Feenstra (Hull), Sen. Amy Sinclair (Allerton), Sen. Dan Zumbach (Ryan)

Democrats will also need to pick a new leader, since Sen. Gronstal was defeated after serving 34 years in the Iowa Senate.  No word on who might step into the role of Minority Leader, but we have heard several names passed around (Bolkcom, Hogg, Jochum, Mathis, McCoy, Petersen).  They will meet on November 19 to select their (much smaller) leadership team.  

STATE HOUSE.  While big changes are ahead in the Iowa Senate, not a lot changed in the Iowa House.  Republicans increased their majority by picking up two Democratic seats, so they will return in January with 59 seats after defeating one incumbent and picking up one open Democratic seat.   So the new House makeup will be 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats.

There will be 15 new faces (11 Republicans and 4 Democrats) when the Legislature reconvenes on January 9, 2017:

New Republicans (11):

  • Michael Bergan (Waukon) replaces retiring Rep. Darrel Branhagen.
  • Jane Bloomingdale (Northwood) replaces retiring Rep. Josh Byrnes.
  • Jim Carlin (Sioux City) replaces retiring Rep. Ron Jorgensen.
  • Kristi Hager (Waukon) beat Democratic Rep. Patti Ruff.
  • Ashley Hinson (Marion) replaces retiring Rep. Kraig Paulsen.
  • David Kerr (Morning Sun) replaces retiring Rep. Tom Sands.
  • Shannon Lundgren (Peosta) replaces retiring Democratic Rep. Nancy Dunkel.
  • Andy McKean (Anamosa) replaces retiring Rep. Brian Moore; McKean is a former legislator.
  • Gary Mohr (Bettendorf) replaces retiring Rep. Linda Miller.
  • Skyler Wheeler (Orange City) replaces retiring Rep. John Kooiker.
  • Louie Zumbach (Coggon) replaces retiring Rep. Quentin Stanerson.

New Democrats (4):

  • Wes Breckenridge (Newton) defeated Rep. Dan Kelley in the June primary.
  • Tim Kacena (Sioux City) replaces retiring Rep. Dave Dawson.
  • Amy Nielsen (North Liberty) replaces retiring Rep. Sally Stutsman.
  • Ras Smith (Waterloo) replaces retiring Rep. Deborah Berry.

There was not much change in the Republican leadership team; Rep. Linda Upmeyer (Speaker of the House), Rep. Chris Hagenow (House Majority Leader) and Matt Windschitl (Speaker Pro Tem) were re-elected to these positions on November 16.  Rep. Zach Nunn moved up from Assistant Majority Leader to Majority Whip.  Rep. Megan Jones and Rep. Mike Sexton were newly elected to Assistant Majority Leader, joining Rep. John Wills and Rep. Jarad Klein. 

Democrats decided to stick with their Minority Leader, Rep. Mark Smith (Marshalltown), but chose an all new group of Assistant Minority Leaders:  Rep. Bruce Bearinger (Oelwein), Rep. Liz Bennett (Cedar Rapids), Brian Meyer (Des Moines), Rep. Helen Miller (Fort Dodge).  They will replace Reps. Ako Abdul-Samad, Mary Gaskill, Todd Prichard, and Sharon Steckman (who continue to be legislators, but not on the leadership team).

Committee assignments will be made prior to session, but don’t expect to see the entire line up until late December.  Make sure you watch our website (www.infonetiowa.org) and Facebook (@infonetiowa) for developments, committee assignments, and leadership announcements.