Fewer women will serve in the Iowa Senate, more in Iowa House

For the past two years, ten women have served in the Iowa Senate (20 percent of the chamber’s membership). That number will fall to seven or eight by the time the newly-elected legislature begins its 2015 session.

However, the number of women who will serve in the Iowa House will grow from 25 to 27 for the next two years. Follow me after the jump for details and a full list of Democratic and Republican women who will serve in the newly-elected Iowa legislature.

Following up on prospects for increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the Iowa legislature, all five African-American state representatives were re-elected to the Iowa House this week: Helen Miller (House district 9), Ruth Ann Gaines (House district 32), Ako Abdul-Samad (House district 35), Deborah Berry (House district 62), and Phyllis Thede (House district 93). Neither party nominated any African-American candidates for the Iowa Senate, which remains all-white.  

Iowans have yet to elect a Latino candidate to the state legislature. Democrats nominated Karyn Finn in House district 60 and Maria Bribriesco in Senate district 47, but both lost to Republican incumbents on Tuesday.

As has been the case since Swati Dandekar left the Iowa Senate in 2011, the Iowa legislature includes no Asian-American lawmakers. Neither party nominated any Asian-American candidates in 2014.

Iowa Senate

Five women state senators were not up for re-election in 2014, so will continue to serve through the 2016 legislative session: Republican Amy Sinclair (Senate district 14) and Democrats Janet Petersen (Senate district 18), Liz Mathis (Senate district 34), Mary Jo Wilhelm (Senate district 26), and Pam Jochum (Senate district 50).

Two Democratic women were re-elected to the Senate on Tuesday: Amanda Ragan (Senate district 27) and Rita Hart (Senate district 49). So at a minimum, seven women will serve in the new Iowa Senate.

Two Republican women retired from the Iowa Senate this year and will be replaced by men. Jason Schultz was the only candidate for the seat vacated by Nancy Boettger (Senate district 9). Kevin Kinney defeated Mike Moore for the seat vacated by Sandy Greiner (Senate district 39).

Republican Crystal Bruntz fell short in her bid to represent the open Senate district 15. Two Democratic challengers to male incumbents (Maria Bribriesco in Senate district 47 and Pam Deichmann in Senate district 13) also lost on Tuesday.

Republican Joni Ernst will leave the state legislature, having won the U.S. Senate race. Depending on who runs in safe Republican Senate district 12, an eighth woman could be elected to the Iowa Senate by January. Ernst’s predecessor representing that southwest Iowa territory in the Iowa Senate was Kim Reynolds, who left to become lieutenant governor. Reynolds’ predecessor in the Iowa Senate was Jeff Angelo.

If a man becomes the Republican nominee in Senate district 12, Amy Sinclair will be the only woman in the 24-member Iowa Senate GOP caucus. The Democratic majority will include 20 men and six women.

Iowa House

For the past two years, 25 women have served in the Iowa House. Only one of them retired this year: Anesa Kajtazovic, who sought the Democratic nomination in the first Congressional district. A woman will succeed her, as Timi Brown-Powers won a competitive Democratic primary in House district 61 and easily defeated her Republican opponent on Tuesday.

The other 24 women sought re-election to the Iowa House, and all were successful on Tuesday.

Newly re-elected Democratic women

Helen Miller (House district 9)

Deborah Berry (House district 62)

Ruth Ann Gaines (House district 32)

Marti Anderson (House district 36)

Jo Oldson (House district 41)

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (House district 45)

Lisa Heddens (House district 46)

Sharon Steckman (House district 53)

Patti Ruff (House district 56)

Nancy Dunkel (House district 57)

Kirsten Running-Marquardt (House district 69)

Sally Stutsman (House district 77)

Mary Gaskill (House district 81)

Vicki Lensing (House district 85)

Mary Mascher (House district 86)

Cindy Winckler (House district 90)

Phyllis Thede (House district 93)

Mary Wolfe (House district 98)

Newly re-elected Republican women

Megan Jones (formerly Megan Hess, House district 2)

Mary Ann Hanusa (House district 16)

Linda Upmeyer (House district 54)

Sandy Salmon (House district 63)

Dawn Pettengill (House district 75)

Linda Miller (House district 94)

Two Democratic women won primaries in Iowa House districts being vacated by men. Liz Bennett will succeed Tyler Olson in House district 65, and Abby Finkenauer will succeed Pat Murphy in House district 99.

Democrats nominated eight women in other Iowa House districts this year; all lost to Republican incumbents on Tuesday.

Also this week, two Republican women lost their races again Democratic House incumbents. Jane Jech ran against Mark Smith in House district 71–for those keeping track, that’s four unsuccessful Iowa legislative races for Jech. Ronda Bern challenged John Forbes in House district 40.

To sum up, 27 women will be among the 100 Iowa House members for the next two years. There will be six women in the 57-member Republican majority and 21 women among 43 Democrats in the minority.

About the Author(s)


  • Few thoughts

    Kevin Koester could have been caught napping a bit in his race if there wasn’t a late start on that contest.  He certainly wouldn’t have been defeated, but it could have been a Dean Fisher 2012 type situation.

    We should be on the lookout for a female candidate in the Lofgren/Carlson/Reichert district.  That area is progressive enough to elect a woman in the future, I believe.  

    Patti Ruff is a political powerhouse, well done on her part.

    • Various

      No way Koester loses that District. Name a cement block and put an R behind it in that District, and you’ll be lugging it to the Statehouse.  Which, come to think of it, is about the way it is now.

      As for the area formerly known as the Lofgren District, shame on the IDP for not finding a better candidate there.  It is a DEMOCRATIC district, for cryin’ out loud, and they run the same candidate in 2014 as the one who lost in 2012? Guy wants to run again?  Fine, but did you ever hear of a primary?

      There was a whole lot of Democratic campaign malpractice in the recently concluded “effort”.  Braley is just the tip of the iceberg. Bad polling, bad targets, bad or late lit, “uncoordinated” campaigns, bad decisions, no decisions, late decisions… insiders know whereof I speak.  I hope some heads roll.

      • the lit is always bad

        even in the good years. I don’t understand why these vendors keep getting contracts for Iowa Democratic direct mail.

        The radio and tv ads (that I saw and heard) for Democratic state legislative candidates seemed to be a slight improvement on 2012, though.

  • Women

    Oh yeah, the topic was women. Sorry.  

    I am a big promoter of women candidates.  But you know what?  Women won’t run, so too bad so sad.  You have to campaign, work hard and maybe even lose. But if women don’t get in the pipeline, they won’t get elected.

    Especially young women.  WHERE ARE YOU?  Yeah I know, you work, you have young kids, you have soccer, and tae Kwando and dance classes, etc etc etc.  

    Do you care about education, do you care about the environment, do you care about health care? Then get your husbands or sig others off their butts, and get them involved with your campaign.  You’re good at multi tasking? great…make public office part of the juggling act. Your brains, creativity, sensibilities, your perspectives are sorely needed. Just look around at what’s happening. I know a dozen young women I could drop into Congress or the Statehouse right now who would do a much better job than some of the individuals we are sending to those places.

    Some women do it – Janet Peterson did it and is doing it. But we need more more more. Please get involved.  

    • Koester

      I agree with on Koester’s district, it would be extremely difficult.

      Christine Sherrod did very well with very limited resources, and a late start.  I think regardless of whether a candidate wins every seat should be contested.  I don’t think there’s a rule within the party by-laws that says a candidate automatically gets a campaign donation, so simply putting a candidate on the ballot is just going to drive up turnout IMO.

      I do hope there is a serious discussion about the Lofgren district and quickly because you don’t want the incumbent to become too entrenched.  That seat should be very competitive.  

      The Obama coalition which largely includes a lot of younger women doesn’t seem to be interested in voting or running for office….at least not in large numbers.  I hope this changes as well.  

      • since Chris Brase is up for re-election in 2016

        in Senate district 46 (which includes House district 91), and Muscatine is Brase’s home territory, the Democrats will have a strong GOTV effort. We should be able to make that House race competitive.

      • Agree

        I agree, the Obama coalition stinks at voting/participating themselves in midterms and at the local level. I liked Elesha Gayman. There aren’t enough young people, and I prefer females also, that want to run. I am young, but there is no way I would win here haha (gay Latino liberal in Scott County dating a black guy). Let’s get some of them to run!!! 🙂

    • research has identified

      many reasons women are less likely to run for office. I think numbers 3-7 are the most salient:

      1.    Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates.

      2.    Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s candidacies aggravated women’s perceptions of gender bias in the electoral arena.

      3.    Women are much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office.

      4.    Female potential candidates are less competitive, less confident, and more risk averse than their male counterparts.

      5.    Women react more negatively than men to many aspects of modern campaigns.

      6.    Women are less likely than men to receive the suggestion to run for office – from anyone.

      7.    Women are still responsible for the majority of childcare and household tasks.