Iowa Senate confirms Swati Dandekar, but six Democrats vote no

The Iowa Senate voted to confirm former Senator Swati Dandekar to the Iowa Utilities Board this evening by 43 votes to 6 (pdf).  

Dandekar was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008 but stepped down last September to accept the Iowa Utilities Board position. Her appointment (a genius move by Governor Terry Branstad) threatened Democratic control of the Iowa Senate. However, Republicans squandered the chance to deadlock the chamber when Liz Mathis won the special election to serve out Dandekar’s term.

All 23 Republicans present and 20 Democrats voted for Dandekar’s confirmation, while Democrats Daryl Beall, Dennis Black, Tom Courtney, Bill Dotzler, Jack Hatch, and Herman Quirmbach voted no. I haven’t seen any statements explaining those votes, but will update this post if anyone provides a reason for rejecting this appointment. Beall, Black, and Hatch have publicly criticized the nuclear power bill that Dandekar championed as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, but several other equally vocal opponents of nuclear power voted to confirm Dandekar.

I have expected Dandekar to sail through the confirmation process ever since I saw State Senator Rob Hogg (who is against the nuclear energy bill) praise her appointment last fall. Nominees need support from 34 members, two-thirds of the Senate, to be confirmed, so Dandekar had votes to spare. Still, most gubernatorial appointees are unanimously confirmed or receive just one or two “nays.” I don’t view this as a strong vote of confidence from Dandekar’s former colleagues.

Mark Lambert, who served on the Iowa Utilities Board member while Tom Vilsack was governor, observed shortly after Dandekar’s appointment that for first time in decades, none of the three Iowa Utilities Board members is an attorney. The other two members are Libby Jacobs and Darrell Hanson, both Republicans and former state legislators. Former Governor Chet Culver appointed Hanson, while Branstad named Jacobs chair of the board.

Immediately after confirming Dandekar, the Senate unanimously confirmed San Wong as director of the state Department of Human Rights and Debi Durham as director of the Economic Development Authority.

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