Scott Brennan to replace Tyler Olson as Iowa Democratic Party chair (updated)

State Representative Tyler Olson is stepping down as Iowa Democratic Party chair. Scott Brennan, an attorney who served as party chair during the 2007/2008 cycle, will step in. Click here for background on Brennan. I’ve posted the IDP’s press release after the jump.

Many Democrats expect Olson to announce a candidacy for governor soon, although he hasn’t ruled out running for the open first Congressional district seat. Olson said recently that he would need to resign as party chair if he decided to run for anything other than the Iowa House in 2014. In retrospect, IDP State Central Committee members should have considered whether it was wise to elect a new party chair in January who had not ruled out running for governor. But for reasons I don’t understand, the Iowa Democratic Party leadership is only comfortable with Soviet-style elections, rubber-stamping the choice of the candidate who will be at the top of the ticket. One of these years, central committee members should allow a more open discussion when it’s time to elect a party leader. Meaning no offense toward Brennan, who is capable by all accounts, I believe Democrats could benefit from allowing multiple candidates to present plans for growing the party organization, improving communication, GOTV, and so on.

Assuming he runs for higher office, Olson will leave a safe Democratic Iowa House seat open in 2014. House district 65, covering a large area in Cedar Rapids east of I-380, contains 9,535 registered Democrats, 4,909 Republicans, and 7,296 no-party voters as of June 2013.

UPDATE: Speaking to Radio Iowa, Olson said he is unlikely to run for the Iowa House in 2014. He will decide on a Congressional or gubernatorial campaign in the next few weeks.

Iowa Democratic Party press release, June 11:

State Central Committee to meet Saturday to select Interim Chair

DES MOINES – Today, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rep. Tyler Olson sent a letter to the Democratic State Central Committee announcing his resignation as chair.  Citing an interest in running for a broader office in 2014, Olson said that it is in the best interest of the Party for him to step down and take the time he needs to determine his next step rather than let those conversations affect the work of the IDP.

Olson’s resignation will become effective upon the selection of an interim chair, which will take place Saturday morning during a special meeting of the State Central Committee.  Former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan is expected to run for the position.

Below is the resignation letter from Chair Tyler Olson to the State Central Committee:

Dear IDP State Central Committee,

The Iowa Democratic Party is strong thanks to your leadership, guidance and insight.

The team we put together has been very successful. We surpassed our fundraising goal every month, sold out the Hall of Fame Dinner and added to our down payment for next year’s coordinated campaign. We continued our work to strengthen the Democratic Party at the local level and have already reached out to over 100 folks who organized their neighborhoods in 2012. We also launched the Blue Guard, a new effort to engage young Iowans and develop the next generation of leaders in our party and state.

I am honored and humbled by the confidence Sen. Tom Harkin, as well as Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, had in me by supporting my candidacy to be chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. When Senator Harkin announced he would not run for re-election in 2014 I was struck by his comments about the time being right for a fresh perspective. Secretary Tom Vilsack recently reaffirmed this sentiment when he said it was time for a new generation of leaders to help move the state forward.

Senator Harkin’s decision to not seek re-election changed the landscape. I am proud of the Iowa Democratic Party’s strong position and it is time for me to determine how I can best serve Iowans through a conversation that is not possible as chair of the IDP. I will immediately end my duties as chair and ask this letter of resignation be effective upon the election of my successor.

As I told folks from Shenandoah to Davenport, Sioux City to Dubuque, St. Ansgar to Cedar Rapids and points in between, I am very optimistic about 2014 and the future of our great state. There is great opportunity in front of us with new leadership that understands the changing nature of our economy and world.

About the Author(s)


  • Scott Brennan

    I worked for the IDP in 2008 and Scott Brennan was a great Chair. He is the kind of Chair that the IDP needs. I hope Rep. Olson decides to run for Governor. I think he would be an exciting candidate that could energize volunteers and voters.  

    • maybe Scott Brennan

      should have been chosen in January, then.

      On principle I think it’s a bad idea for anyone to use the party chair position as a stepping stone or a means to travel around the state building name recognition. The party chair should be someone who’s not contemplating a bid for higher office, especially in that same election cycle.

      • Olson

        The whole thing just strikes me as a bit odd.  It wasn’t like Tyler Olson would be able to build long lasting connections with people as party chair that would help him as a candidate.

        Did he genuinely not expect to run, but then saw no one else that understands certain issues stepping up?

        • no idea what he was thinking

          but I think useful connections could be made traveling to all those local party events, and it can’t hurt to give all those local media interviews that wouldn’t be available to some random Iowa House member.

          • Agreed

            I was just assuming that he still didn’t have time  to get his feet wet at the job.

            I remember the timeline of events.  I guess part of my confusion also is due to his choice to run against Branstad, but of course this makes him a viable candidate for the U.S. Senate, Governor or Attorney General in the future.

  • I'll make this easy

    State Central Committee Meeting is Saturday AM. I don’t have location but given short notice I assume HQ. Any Iowa Democrat who wants to run can run. Here’s the voters to contact:… I’ve been nominated on Twitter by a couple of my GOP pals but I think that’s an effort at sabotage. 🙂

    My bet is Tyler went into the chair with good intentions of serving the full term – he was Harkin’s guy and everyone assumed Harkin was running again and Braley was running for governor until, literally, within minutes of the chair election. Then everything changed, and opportunities don’t wait (sorry, Liz Mathis). And it’s gonna be governor not Congress. for Olson. Not room for a third Linn candidate in the 1st CD primary.

    As for Brennan, I thought he was a good chair and did the most important job of any Iowa chair of either party well: defending First In The Nation.

    • 9:45 AM

      Telephone meeting. Members, press and public welcome to register in advance at


    • technically

      “Any Iowa Democrat who wants to run can run.” I know someone who expressed interest in the party chair position in the past. Upon contacting multiple state central committee members, this person was told, go talk to Harkin’s staff, it’s his decision. I assume the same person would now be told, go talk to Braley’s people.

      This isn’t about Tyler Olson or Scott Brennan in my opinion, it’s about the Iowa Democratic Party’s culture of discouraging an open contest in favor of Harkin’s guy or Culver’s guy or Braley’s guy taking over. I’m not advocating that someone crash this Saturday’s meeting, but for the next election cycle, the party should move away from letting one senior politician make this choice on behalf of the central committee members.