Update on the race to replace Kraig Paulsen as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans will meet in Des Moines on August 20 to choose a new speaker, Erin Murphy reported earlier this week. Outgoing Speaker Kraig Paulsen surprised mtost Iowa politics watchers when he announced last week that he will step down from leadership before next year’s legislative session and will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2016.

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and State Representative Josh Byrnes quickly let it be known that they will run for speaker. The rumor mill expects another House Republican to seek the position, but to my knowledge, no one has gone public with that ambition. Several House members have not responded to my request for comment, including Representative Peter Cownie, who was rumored to be interested in the speaker’s post two years ago. I’ve heard rumblings about Representative Guy Vander Linden, but speaking by phone on August 10, he told me, “I don’t intend to run for speaker. I don’t feel prepared to run for speaker.” He said he undecided on whom he will support to replace Paulsen but inclined to back Upmeyer, because “continuity is important.”

House Majority Whip Chris Hagenow is supporting Upmeyer for speaker and formally announced on Monday that he will seek the post of majority leader. Current House Speaker Pro-Tem Matt Windschitl is also backing Upmeyer and does not appear interested in moving up to majority leader.

According to the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich, over the weekend WHO talk radio host Simon Conway referred to State Representative Walt Rogers (currently one of four assistant majority leaders) as “quite probably the next majority leader” of the Iowa House. However, Rogers told me he will not run for majority leader, because he’s “having fun and working hard” with Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign. Rogers was an early Santorum endorser during the last election cycle, and Santorum in turn supported Rogers’ short-lived Congressional campaign.

Rogers declined to comment when I asked whether he will support Upmeyer for speaker.

As for whether Vander Linden might run for majority leader, he told me, “I haven’t given it any serious consideration,” adding, “I would give a politician’s ‘Never say never.’”

Governor Terry Branstad is wisely staying out of the speaker’s race.

Spin your own scenarios in this thread, and please contact me if you know of another House Republican actively seeking the post of speaker or majority leader.  

  • A friend

    Attended the Marshall County Republicans fundraiser last night.  Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of RPI, was in attendance, but she didn’t think there were any elected house/senate members there (I was there last year and usually Rep Dean Fisher, (R) for District 71, attends along with county elected officials).  In a speech disputing the “war on women” motif, Kaufmann talked about Joni Ernst, Mary Mosiman as female-firsts, then said something like “in a few weeks, we will have the first woman speaker of the house.”  She made it sound like he said it in passing, not in any “official” capacity, and could have just forgotten to add any qualifying language like we “could” have or “might” have.  This moderatepachy would add from his own observations that it seems like Kaufmann is much more “in” with the Party than the previous “liberty” types…maybe he knows something people do not, or maybe it was just a line in a stump speech.  

  • Musings

    Random thoughts – Upmeyer and Hagenow may have cut a deal and are running as a tandem. If he is elected leader, wonder if that helps his House candidacy ? His district is certainly ripe for a Democratic takeover, but the Neiderbach candidacy almost certainly means the District will stay in GOP hands, unless  Clive City Council member Susan Judkins primaries him. She was iffy on running anyway and may decide to take a pass if she is faced with the prospect of a primary.  She will need to run this time to stay on the Council, and likes that gig. So Thanks, Jon !

    Pete Cownie may be quietly in the mix. He is a popular House member even among the far right members. He may also be Branstad’s guy. Upmeyer is not that popular a leader among her peeps, despite all the expressions of support.  A case could be made for her opponents to rally round Peter as a compromise candidate.

    One thing for sure: the legislature will be an even more dreary place next winter if she is elected Speaker. NOTHING will happen.  

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