Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2019

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2019 session on January 14 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. A record eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber at the start of the last legislature’s work.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. Note that Democratic Senator Nate Boulton will serve on committees after all. Minority Leader Janet Petersen had declined to assign him to any committees last month.

A few words about demographics: all current state senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first. No Asian American has served in the Iowa Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Taylors (both Democrats). As for first names, there are three Marks, three Zachs, and two men each named Dan, Jim, Tim, Tom, and Jeff.

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Lessons of 2018: Both parties elected more women lawmakers than ever

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

The largest group of women ever to run for the Iowa legislature has produced the largest contingent of women lawmakers in state history.

For the first time, women will make up more than a third of Iowa House members and a majority of the lower chamber’s Democratic caucus.

The number of women serving in the Iowa Senate will exceed the previous record set in 2013 and 2014. In a major shift from the recent past, the women senators will include almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

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GOP outspending Democrats in almost every competitive Iowa Senate race

As was the case two years ago, Democratic candidates are at a financial disadvantage in almost all of the Iowa Senate districts both parties are targeting.

The disparity adds another challenge to a party already facing a difficult path to gaining ground in the upper chamber. Republicans currently hold 29 of the 50 Senate seats and are guaranteed to pick up the district independent Senator David Johnson is vacating.

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Iowa Senate district 49 preview: Patti Robinson vs. Chris Cournoyer

When Fred Hubbell selected State Senator Rita Hart as his running mate, Democrats had to scramble to find a new candidate in Iowa Senate district 49. Patti Robinson announced her candidacy on July 3. She will face Republican Chris Cournoyer, who has been campaigning here since last November.

Hart was favored for re-election, having won by nearly 900 votes in 2014 despite the statewide GOP landslide. However, an open seat should be highly competitive. Both parties may devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to this race, based on spending totals from the battleground Iowa Senate districts during the 2016 cycle.

Democrats are looking at a difficult state Senate map this year and can’t afford to lose any ground to maintain a realistic chance of regaining the majority in 2020. Republicans currently hold 29 of the 50 Senate seats and will pick up Senate district 1, where Iowa’s only independent lawmaker David Johnson is retiring.

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Fred Hubbell picks Rita Hart; Democrats need new candidate in Senate district 49

Fred Hubbell’s campaign announced this morning that State Senator Rita Hart is his pick for lieutenant governor. Hart and her husband grow corn and soybeans on a 600-acre farm near Wheatland (Clinton County). She previously taught in a rural school district for more than 20 years “before moving on to run educational programs that help young people find jobs with local businesses.” I enclose below the full news release and a campaign video in which Hart introduces herself as an “educator, farmer, a mother, and a volunteer.”

Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel, Hart said, “I want (people) to know that I’m not stepping up to this title. I’m stepping up to the responsibility, and I will always keep their best interests in mind as I do that.”

“I like to surround myself with people that come at questions and issues and experiences in a much different way than I do,” Hubbell, 67, told the Register. “I think that makes the discussion richer, and you’re better able to get a better decision that way. So I was looking for somebody that’s very talented and capable, but not a lot like me. And I think I found her.”

Since long before Hubbell entered the race for governor, Hart has been seen as a possible running mate for the next Democratic nominee. The pick should help the ticket in eastern Iowa and among rural and small-town voters, where the party has lost ground in recent election cycles.

Hart was first elected in 2012 to represent Iowa Senate district 49, covering Clinton County and part of north Scott County (scroll down for a map). Normally only even-numbered Senate districts are on the ballot in presidential election years, but post-2010 redistricting created a seat with no incumbent in her area. Hart won a full four-year term in 2014 despite a GOP landslide statewide. She was facing a strong challenge this year from Republican business owner and school board president Chris Cournoyer. The latest voter registration numbers show a small advantage for Democrats, but as an open seat Senate district 49 should be a competitive race. The district’s residents favored Barack Obama for president in 2012, but Donald Trump outpolled Hillary Clinton here by 51.7 percent to 42.0 percent.

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