Another Iowa Senate Republican calls for leader to step down

State Senator Bill Dix lacked the votes to follow through on his recent attempt to replace Paul McKinley as Iowa Senate Minority Leader, but he doesn’t appear ready to abandon the effort. On Wednesday State Senator Rick Bertrand publicly called for McKinley to step aside.

Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register that Bertrand commented on Senate leadership during a business roundtable in Sioux City:

“It’s no secret there is a clear and healthy divide within the Republican Senate and I believe it is time to make a change in leadership,” Bertrand said. “I have great respect for Sen. McKinley and his service as we share many of the same conservative and business values, but it has become painfully clear that he has lost the ability lead this caucus.” […]

“Our Senate members have innovative ideas and skills, and it is time we Senate Republicans put a leader in place that will stand up to” Senate Majority Leader Michael “Gronstal’s bullying and procedural tactics,” Bertrand said. “We need a leader who can organize our agenda, instill confidence in our donors, and earn the respect of our Governor and House colleagues.”

Dix raised a ton of money for his Senate district 9 campaign last year, thanks in part to his connections with Iowans for Tax Relief. A few months before election day, Democrats pulled back on their efforts in the Republican-leaning district 9. Dix then donated $60,000 to the Butler County Republican Party, which distributed it to several Republican Senate candidates. Bertrand’s campaign collected $15,000, which may have helped him narrowly win a Democratic-leaning open district in Sioux City.

Another newly-elected Senate Republican, Sandy Greiner, endorsed Dix’s leadership challenge two weeks ago, saying McKinley had not done enough organizing for the November 8 special election in Senate district 18.

Craig Robinson sounds disgusted with both sides:

Dix openly challenged McKinley on Tuesday, September 27th, and McKinley hasn’t been back in the state since then.  That’s 17 days that McKinley, the Republican leader in the State Senate, has been A.W.O.L.  While it is rumored that McKinley now is back on U.S. soil, he will not return to Iowa until later this weekend after a legislative conference he is attending.  In all, McKinley has been absent for nearly 20 days.

Being gone for 20 days is a very long time when you consider that McKinley will have been absent for nearly half the days that will make up entire period of time in which the special election in Senate District 18 will take place.  With that being the case, it’s easy to understand why some Senate Republicans are frustrated and fed up with McKinley.[…]

Bertrand’s frustration is understandable, but why go public with this now and not when Dix openly challenged McKinley?  The reason why Dix is not the leader of the Senate today is because he lost the public relations battle when he allowed McKinley’s supporters in the Senate to spin his leadership challenge as a cowardly and illegitimate move.  As a result, Dix lost some key votes and thus had to revoke his challenge. […] publicly calling on McKinley to resign now does nothing but distract from the task at hand in Senate District 18.

The only person who all of this drama helps is Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.  Instead of Republicans pulling together to gain equal control of the chamber, they appear to be more interested with internal politics than helping Cindy Golding be successful in Senate District 18.  

McKinley has scheduled a caucus for Republican senators in Des Moines on November 10. If Golding wins the special election, perhaps McKinley can survive as minority leader. If Liz Mathis keeps the Iowa Senate in Democratic hands, the knives will surely be out.

Speaking of Republican alliances, the longtime former leader of Iowans for Tax Relief, Ed Failor, has joined forces with a rising Republican star:

Whitaker Strategy Group to Offer Lobbying and Consulting

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker is starting a new venture, Whitaker Strategy Group, a lobbying and consulting practice.  Ed Failor, Jr. will serve as Chief Operating Officer.

“We intend to establish a model that promotes business and job growth in Iowa by assisting clients as they navigate the path to success in Iowa.”, Whitaker said.

Whitaker served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa from 2004-2009.  He is a graduate of the University of Iowa Law School and also is the managing partner of a Des Moines law firm.

Failor commented, “It’s exciting to work toward helping clients find success in Iowa in the government relations arena.”.

Ed Failor, Jr. most recently served as President of Iowans for Tax Relief.  He held a number of positions, including lobbyist, for the organization over the last 16 years.

Whitaker Strategy Group is located in Des Moines.

Failor and other senior staffers at Iowans for Tax Relief abruptly left the organization in April of this year.

Whitaker is the senior partner in a law firm along with Republican State Representative Chris Hagenow. Governor Terry Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley joined the Whitaker-Hagenow firm last year during her unsuccessful campaign against Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

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