I was asleep at the wheel when the Iowa House Democratic leadership made the committee assignments last week. I didn’t notice that Representative Brian Quirk of New Hampton will replace Representative Geri Huser of Altoona as chair of the Transportation Committee.
The only state lawmaker to get sacked as the head of a committee in either the Iowa House or Iowa Senate was Rep. Geri Huser of Altoona, who was chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee and is known at the Statehouse as a leading expert on road policy.
Huser is a Democrat, but a conservative one who hasn’t been afraid to challenge Democratic leaders on any given issue.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, who made the decision, declined to explain his reasoning. “I’m not going to get into a lot of discussions about it,” he said. “We make decisions like this all the time.”
Murphy complimented Huser’s work on other issues, such as taxes and local government, and said he expects good things from her during the coming session.
Asked Wednesday why she was removed from the committee, Huser said she hasn’t had a conversation with Murphy since June. She learned from news reports that she was no longer chairwoman.
Learned from news reports? Ouch.
Does anyone know why Murphy would have wanted to replace Huser? As the Register notes, she is among the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus. I am not sure whether she was committed to the “fair share” bill that never came to a vote in the Iowa House in 2007. I didn’t realize she had conflict with the House leadership, because when Matt Ballard challenged Huser in the Democratic primary for House district 42 this year, saying she had not been supportive enough of labor, the House Democrats did not allow Ballard to purchase access to the voter database (Voter Activation Network).
Some activists have suggested Huser has a conflict of interest because some of her work in the legislature and on the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization could financially benefit her family’s business interests.
If you’ve got a theory (or better yet, information) about why Quirk is replacing Huser as head of the Transportation Committee, please post a comment in this thread or send me a confidential e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).
VERY LATE UPDATE: I’ve heard from multiple sources the same rumor that Cityview’s Civic Skinny reported in December: Huser was removed as chair of the House Transportation Committee because late in the election campaign she refused to give the House Democrats money to use against a vulnerable Republican incumbent. My sources say the Republican in question was Doug Struyk, who narrowly defeated Kurt Hubler in House district 99.