Who's who in the Iowa House for 2022

The Iowa House opened its 2022 session on January 10 with 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats, a one-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year, thanks to a special election last fall.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women in 2020.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session. The most significant: Republican Mike Bousselot won a September special election following the death of Republican John Landon, and Republican Jon Dunwell won an October special election after Democrat Wes Breckenridge left the legislature for another job.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House has two members with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican). As for popular first names, there are six Davids (three go by Dave), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Tom or Thomas, three named Steve or Steven, three named Charles (a Chuck and two Charlies), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), three Jons and two Johns, and two men each named Gary, Dennis, and Ross. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), two Shannons, an Ann and an Anne, and two women named Mary (down from four in 2020).

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A tale of two 60-40 Iowa House Republican majorities

Republican Jon Dunwell won the October 12 special election in Iowa House district 29 by 2,820 votes to 1,890 for Democrat Steve Mullan (59.9 percent to 40.1 percent), according to unofficial results. The outcome was expected, for reasons Bleeding Heartland discussed here. Nonetheless, Democrats will be demoralized to lose yet another state legislative seat containing a mid-sized city that used to be a Democratic stronghold.

Once Dunwell is sworn in, Republicans will hold 60 of the 100 Iowa House seats, the same number they held in 2011 and 2012. But ten years ago, that lopsided majority could be viewed as a high-water mark following the 2010 GOP landslide. Democrats had a net gain of seven Iowa House seats in 2012 and were only a few hundred votes away from regaining the majority.

The current GOP majority appears to be more durable in light of an Iowa political realignment. To illustrate how different these two majorities are, I’ve broken down each party’s caucus in 2011 and 2021 by the type of House district each member represented: rural/small-town, “micropolitan,” suburban, and urban.

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Iowa House district 29 preview: Jon Dunwell vs. Steve Mullan

Voters in Jasper County will elect a new state representative on October 12 to replace Democrat Wes Breckenridge, who stepped down last month to become assistant director for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Although this district looks relatively balanced on paper, Republicans go into Tuesday’s election favored to pick up the seat, which would give the party a 60-40 majority in the state House. A Democratic win would keep the balance of power at 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats. That may not sound significant, but GOP leaders were unable to get several controversial bills through the chamber this year, so every additional vote in their caucus could be important during the 2022 session.

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First thoughts on the Iowa House district 29 special election

State Representative Wes Breckenridge resigned from the Iowa House this week, effective September 10. The three-term Democrat, who is a retired Newton police officer, was recently hired as assistant director for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. He wrote in the Newton Daily News that he didn’t feel he could do justice to his legislative work and his new responsibilities.

Breckenridge was among the most conservative members of the House Democratic caucus. During this year’s legislative session, he voted for both versions of a policing bill that will exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. In fact, he was the only Democrat to vote for the final version of that bill. He was also the lone Democrat to support a bill that eliminated permit requirements for Iowans to purchase or carry pistols or revolvers. However, Breckenridge voted against the extreme constitutional amendment on guns that will be on the 2022 ballot. He had opposed several other GOP bills over the years that loosened Iowa’s gun laws.

Governor Kim Reynolds will soon schedule a special election to fill the remainder of Breckenridge’s term. The seat will be a tough hold for Democrats.

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Final look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape, with ratings

Politics watchers from around the country are watching Iowa’s U.S. Senate race today, but arguably the battle for the Iowa House is more important for our state’s future. Democrats need a net gain of four seats for a majority or three seats for a 50-50 chamber that would block the worst excesses of the Republican trifecta.

The 2020 playing field is even larger than usual, in part because Democrats finally have the resources to compete with Republicans in the battleground House districts.

I enclose below a brief final look at each House district, with the latest voter registration figures (as of November 2), absentee ballot totals (as of November 3), campaign spending by both parties, and recent voting history. This post from early October has more background on each campaign, which influenced my ratings.

Democrats have good prospects to win control of the chamber, with many potential targets. If Republicans cling to a majority, it will probably be with only 51 seats.

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