Iowa House Republicans came out of this campaign in better shape than they could have hoped six months ago. The party successfully defended every incumbent and every GOP-held open seat, including one with a significant Democratic registration advantage. Even better, Republicans defeated State Representative Patti Ruff and picked off one of the four Democratic-held open seats, despite a big tax problem for the GOP candidate there. During the last presidential election year, Republicans suffered a net loss of seven Iowa House seats and were lucky to avoid losing more. In contrast, the caucus came out of last Tuesday with a two-seat gain and a 59-41 majority, just one seat shy of their advantage in the chamber after the 2010 landslide.
Happy endings provide little incentive to shake things up. To no one’s surprise, House Republicans re-elected most of their leadership team during yesterday’s caucus meeting in Des Moines. Linda Upmeyer will continue as speaker, her position stronger now than last year, since several representatives who were rumored to be at odds with her have now retired. Chris Hagenow stays on as majority leader and Matt Windschitl as House speaker pro-tem.
The biggest change is Zach Nunn moving up from one of the assistant majority leader positions to majority whip. Media reports don’t indicate whether last year’s majority whip Joel Fry sought the position again or stepped down from the leadership team voluntarily.
Similarly, Walt Rogers is no longer an assistant majority leader, having held one of those positions from early 2013 through last year’s legislative session.
If any readers can shed light on whether Fry and Rogers wanted out or were pushed out of leadership, please post a comment here or contact me confidentially at the e-mail address near the bottom right of this page. UPDATE: Two sources indicate that Fry is likely to lead the Human Resources Committee, since its previous chair Linda Miller retired this year. Under House rules, assistant leaders don’t chair committees. Still seeking insight on the next move for Rogers.
Two of the just-selected assistant majority leaders played the same role last year: Jarad Klein and John Wills. The other two, Mike Sexton and Megan Jones, join House leadership for the first time. UPDATE: According to one source, Jones and Klein ran against Nunn for majority whip.
Like her counterpart in the upper chamber, incoming Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, Upmeyer didn’t lay out specific policy plans when speaking to reporters yesterday. We’ll find out later which taxes Republicans plan to cut, how badly they will decimate collective bargaining rights for public employees, and whether they will do anything to make medical cannabis more widely available to Iowans suffering from severe health conditions.
Upmeyer seemed to rule out raising the sales tax by 3/8 of a cent to fill the the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. That fund has been empty since 63 percent of Iowans approved a constitutional amendment to create it in 2010. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is one of very few elected Republican officials to be on record backing a sales tax hike to fund conservation efforts.