Iowa Senate Majority leader being treated for brain tumor

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver is undergoing radiation therapy for a brain tumor, he announced in a May 17 news release. He said his condition was diagnosed after the Iowa legislature adjourned for the year in April, adding that he is “responding well to the initial treatments.”

Whitver said he will continue to serve in the legislature and as majority leader. Senate GOP staff did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s questions about where Whitver is receiving medical care, or the expected time frame of the treatment plan.

Many elected officials from both parties—including Governor Kim Reynolds, Attorney General Brenna Bird, State Auditor Rob Sand, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Pam Jochum, and House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst—expressed prayers and well wishes for Whitver’s health in statements sent to news organizations or posted on social media.

First elected to the Iowa Senate in 2011, Whitver was re-elected to a four-year term in 2022 from Senate district 23, covering much of northern and eastern Polk County, which means he will not be on the ballot this November. He said in the May 17 news release that he will lead his caucus “through this election cycle in the same way I have since becoming leader in 2018.”

Speaking to reporters on March 14—the only group media availability he held during the 2024 legislative session—Whitver said Senate Republicans hope to expand their 34-16 majority. He mentioned four Democratic-held seats where he believes the GOP has a “puncher’s chance”:

Democrats will make a serious play for at least one GOP-held Iowa Senate seat: Senate district 22 in Polk County, where Matt Blake is challenging long-serving incumbent Brad Zaun.

Appendix: Full text of May 17 news release from Iowa Senate Republicans:

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver released the following update on his health:

After the 2024 Session of the Iowa Legislature concluded, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My physicians and care team have implemented a treatment plan and I have begun radiation therapy.  I am responding well to the initial treatments and am grateful for my medical team. 

I am remaining in the Iowa Senate and continuing in my role as Majority Leader as I undergo treatment. I am leading Senate Republicans through this election cycle in the same way I have since becoming leader in 2018. Our Senate Republican team is full of capable and accomplished people and I am grateful for the trust and support of the Senate Republican Caucus. I am confident Senate Republicans will be as successful this November as we have been the last several election cycles.

I appreciate the kind words and prayers my family and I have received. We ask for continued prayer and support as we continue this treatment. 

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Laura Belin