Democratic State Senator Joe Seng has died after a two-year battle with brain cancer, Iowa Senate leaders confirmed today. I enclose below comments released by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate President Pam Jochum.
With the upper chamber split 26-24 and many important votes falling along party lines, Democratic leaders needed Seng’s presence often during the last two legislative sessions. He had phenomenal dedication and kept showing up for work while fighting a monstrous disease and undergoing regular chemotherapy. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski posted a video of Seng singing and playing the accordion for his colleagues in April 2015.
Seng served as Davenport’s alderman-at-large and mayor pro-tem before representing parts of Iowa’s third-largest city for two years in the state House and fourteen in the Senate. A veterinarian by training, he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee in recent years and served on the Commerce, Ethics, Labor and Business Relations, Natural Resources and Environment, and Ways & Means committees.
After Iowa’s new map of political boundaries put Scott County in the second Congressional district, Seng challenged U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack and won about 18 percent of the vote in the 2012 Democratic primary. In his final re-election campaign two years ago, Seng easily defeated a primary challenger and did not face a general election opponent.
Seng’s passing will force a special election later this year in Senate district 45 (map enclosed below). Because the district contains more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, the only real competition to replace Seng will be for the Democratic nomination, to be decided at a district convention. Democrats Jim Lykam and Cindy Winckler have represented the two halves of Seng’s Senate district in the Iowa House since 2003.
Iowa Senate press release, September 16:
Statements by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate President Pam Jochum on the passing of Senator Joe Seng
“When physicians determined in September 2014 that Senator Joe Seng needed surgery and follow-up treatment for a brain tumor, Joe declared that he would be back for the first day of the 2015 legislative session. All of us who served with him the Legislature – as well as many of his constituents – knew that Joe would keep his promise because he was tough as nails.
“Joe Seng lived his Catholic faith through his words and his actions. That included running a veterinary practice that served families from all walks of life, operating restaurants and other businesses, and helping a variety of agencies and charities that served low-income families.
“He was a friend, a colleague and a good person.”
“It was an honor to serve with Joe Seng in the House and Senate. He was a solid legislator. He’s going to be missed by all of us.
“Joe served the people of Scott County with all his heart and soul for many years. He cared deeply about the families and neighborhoods in his district. He showed that love at his veterinary practice, where he made many friends for life and touched the hearts of thousands of families.
“Finally, we all owe a debt of gratitude to his wife Mary, who was by his side every step of this journey. She will always be a member of the Iowa Senate family.”