First-term State Senator Bill Dix e-mailed fellow Iowa Senate Republicans today calling for a caucus and leadership election this Thursday morning in Des Moines. Dix has long been rumored to have his eye on Paul McKinley's position as Senate minority leader.
Normally, a newly-elected lawmaker wouldn't be a contender for a leadership position, but Dix spent ten years in the Iowa House, eventually chairing the Appropriations Committee. He left the state legislature to run for Congress in 2006 but lost the Republican primary in the first district.
McKinley was elected Senate Republican leader shortly after the 2008 general election. Some conservatives have griped about his failure to force a Senate vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. McKinley's 2010 gubernatorial campaign was comically inept and short-lived.
The Iowa Republican blog published the e-mail Dix sent this morning to the other 23 Senate Republicans. Excerpt:
Please join me in caucus at the Capitol this Thursday at 10 a.m. to discuss Senate District #18 special election and the roll [sic] each one of us needs to play in our success. I apologize for the short notice, but we need to caucus now and are under a tight timeline with this race and need all hands on deck to assure we are doing all that needs to be done.
In full disclosure, I will also be calling for a leadership election.
The Iowa Republican also posted Minority Whip Steve Kettering's e-mail to fellow senators. Kettering said he was responding on behalf of McKinley, who is out of the country. He added that under Senate tradition, the leader "sets a date and time for the caucus," and McKinley has scheduled caucus for Thursday, November 10.
Any gatherings prior to that date where senators are present cannot be considered an officially sanctioned caucus and individual senators are not eligible to claim travel or other expenses.
I don't understand why McKinley wouldn't want to convene his caucus before the November 8 special election in Senate district 18.
Dix has already responded to Kettering's e-mail, saying McKinley was in Iowa this morning but has not returned his calls. According to Dix, "rules require a constitutional majority for an official caucus. Therefore, you will be reimbursed for mileage expenses."
We'll find out on Thursday how many true friends McKinley has. My guess is his loyalists will ignore Dix's call for a caucus rather than show up and help Dix achieve a majority of participants. A bunch of newly-elected senators owe Dix a favor, because he spread lots of money around to other campaigns in 2010. Dix is also closely linked to Iowans for Tax Relief, which is a major financial backer of GOP legislative candidates.
UPDATE: State Senator Sandy Greiner is one vote for Dix:
Sen. Sandy Greiner, R-Keota, said she is frustrated that not enough ground work is being done to help Republican Cindy Golding in her likely matchup with Democrat Liz Mathis - who is expected to be nominated by Democrats this week - in the Nov. 8 special election. "Quite frankly, I'm stunned there doesn't seem to be a lot of focus on this special election in our caucus," she said. "We need the help of all the senators, we just need everybody to pitch in."
Greiner said Dix, a former House member who returned to the Legislature by capturing the Senate District 9 seat in 2010, "has been around" and she did not think he would call for a leadership election "unless he had the votes in his hip pocket."
"I can't imagine that Dix would call this unless he was pretty sure he has the votes," added Greiner, who said she would support him as new leader of the Senate Republicans.