Where are they now? Geri Huser edition

Former State Representative Geri Huser, one of Iowa's surprise losers in November 2010, has landed a senior position in state government with the Iowa Finance Authority.

Cityview's Civic Skinny gossip column brought Huser's new job to my attention. She is director of Iowa Finance Authority's Title Guaranty Division, which "offers Commitments, Certificates, and Endorsements that provide low cost title protection for real estate located in Iowa." I don't know whether the previous division director, Loyd Ogle, resigned or was laid off. Many state employees lost their jobs at the end of the last fiscal year or during the first month of fiscal year 2012. I couldn't find any official announcement of Huser's hiring on Governor Terry Branstad's website or on the Iowa Finance Authority's site, but according to Civic Skinny, Huser started working in state government earlier this month. A few months before Huser joined the Iowa Finance Authority staff, Branstad named her to his Transportation 2020 Citizen Advisory Commission.

Huser represented an eastern Polk County district in the Iowa House for 14 years. She chaired the House Transportation Committee for two years after Democrats gained control of the chamber in the 2006 elections. However, Huser fell out of favor with House leaders and lost that committee chairmanship following the 2008 elections. During the 2009 session, Huser was one of six House Democrats who prevented a "prevailing wage" bill from passing and one of two House Democrats who supported Republican efforts to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote. (Huser didn't help Republicans on the marriage issue in 2010.)

Huser's willingness to defy party leaders on organized labor's legislative priorities helped her lock down endorsements from conservative groups that rarely support Democrats, such as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry's PAC and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. The Iowans for Tax Relief PAC even donated $2,500 to Huser's last re-election campaign. It probably helped that the Republican Party of Iowa wasn't targeting Huser's House district 42 in 2010. She had run unopposed in the 2006 and 2008 general elections.

Noting that it's rare for Branstad to appoint a Democrat, Civic Skinny suggested that Huser's new job is "payback" to her father, attorney and land developer Ed Skinner. He has long been a major donor to Democratic candidates in Iowa as well as the state Democratic party, including during the last election cycle. However, according to Civic Skinny, Skinner supported Branstad's comeback bid against Governor Chet Culver. Cityview first mentioned Skinner's support for Branstad in the summer of 2010.

I couldn't find any record of contributions from Skinner to Branstad's gubernatorial campaign, but Julie Skinner-Stewart, who is Geri Huser's sister and Ed Skinner's daughter, gave Branstad $1,000. Skinner-Stewart has previously donated to various Democratic campaigns. Conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart was outraged when Huser's opponent, tea party activist Kim Pearson, was not invited to a summer 2010 fundraiser for Branstad in the southeast Polk County portion of the district. Skinner was reportedly on the guest list for that event.

In the end, Pearson defeated Huser by just 126 votes. Redistricting put most of the old House district 42 in the new district 30, which is divided fairly evenly between Democrats, Republicans and no-party voters. But neither Huser nor House Democratic leaders had any appetite for a rematch. Altoona City Council member Joe Riding announced this month that he will run against Pearson as a Democrat in 2012. Huser served on the Altoona City Council before her first election to the Iowa House in 1996.

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