Iowa House Democrats choose Mark Smith as minority leader (updated)

The Iowa House Democrats elected seven-term State Representative Mark Smith as their new minority leader at a caucus in Des Moines today. Although it’s not made clear in the news release I’ve posted below, I have the impression that no one else’s name was formally placed in nomination. Kevin McCarthy had served as minority leader since shortly after the 2010 election but announced last week that he is resigning from the Iowa House to take a new job in the Attorney General’s office. Smith represents Marshalltown-based House district 71 and has served as an assistant minority leader during the last three legislative sessions.

After the jump I’ve posted more background on Smith and comments from McCarthy and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan.

UPDATE: Added more information below. Apparently State Representative Rick Smith of Des Moines also ran for minority leader. Last week State Representative Dave Jacoby of Coralville was rumored to be making phone calls to fellow lawmakers, but he did not enter his name in nomination yesterday.

Iowa House Democrats press release, August 10:

SMITH TO LEAD HOUSE DEMOCRATS

Des Moines, Iowa – Iowa House Democrats elected State Representative Mark Smith as the new House Democratic Leader today at a meeting in Des Moines.  The former leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, resigned last week to take a position in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.

“I’m humbled and honored to be chosen by my colleagues to lead Democrats in the Iowa House. We are united as a caucus and ready to win back the majority and rebuild the middle class,” said Leader Smith.  “My thanks to Rep. McCarthy for his service to the people of Iowa and our caucus over the last seven years.”

Rep. Smith is currently serving his 7th term in the Iowa House from Marshalltown, Iowa.  He was born and raised on his family’s farm near Osceola, Iowa. He is a graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni and earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Iowa.  He is currently the Director of Special Projects at the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit of Central Iowa. Mark and his wife, Karen, have one grown daughter and he has two grown foster sons. They have five foster grandchildren.

“We had a great caucus today about the future direction of the House Democratic Caucus. It was a great discussion and our caucus is united and strong. I sincerely congratulate Mark Smith and look forward to working with him on a smooth transition,” added Rep. McCarthy.  “I’m confident that Mark Smith and the House Democratic Caucus will win the majority in 2014.”

The 2014 Legislative Session starts on January 13.

Iowa Democratic Party press release, August 10:

IDP CHAIR SCOTT BRENNAN CONGRATULATES REP. MARK SMITH ON HIS ELECTION AS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER

DES MOINES – Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan today congratulated Marshall County State Representative Mark Smith on his election as House Minority Leader.

“Iowa Democrats congratulate Rep. Mark Smith on his election as House Democratic Leader. Mark has been a life-long champion of working men and women and has distinguished himself as a tireless advocate for the middle class. He has the skills and experience necessary to lead House Democrats, and we know he will do a great job fighting for progressive causes when the legislature convenes in January.  The Iowa Democratic Party looks forward to working with him and the entire House Democratic caucus to help elect strong progressives to the House next fall and pushing Democrats back into the majority.”

From Jason Noble’s report for the Des Moines Register:

Smith was challenged for the post by Rep. Rick Olson of Des Moines.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said after the election that her fellow Democrats were encouraged by Smith’s previous leadership position, his work before that on the high-profile Human Resources Committee.

“He has a long history of understanding and knowing the process, legislatively and politically, so I think we have a lot of confidence that he is going to do a great job for us,” she said.

Smith also has had success in a competitive district, she added.

“He understands what it’s like to fight in tighter races than some of us,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. That knowledge should be useful as he attempts to raise campaign funds on behalf of the entire caucus.

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