# Jon Dunwell



Who's who in the Iowa House for 2023

The Iowa House opened its 2023 session on January 9 with 64 Republicans and 36 Democrats, a four-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year.

Thirty-eight representatives (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Two Republicans previously held other legislative offices: Craig Johnson served one and a half terms in the Iowa Senate, and David Young served two terms in Congress.

The House members include 71 men and 29 women (sixteen Democrats and thirteen Republicans), down from 31 women who served for the last two years. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Jerome Amos, Jr., Ruth Ann Gaines, Mary Madison, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. As Abdul-Samad began his seventeenth year at the capitol, he surpassed Helen Miller as Iowa’s longest-serving Black state legislator.

Republican Mark Cisneros was the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature in 2020, and Democrat Adam Zabner is now the second Latino serving in the chamber. Republican Henry Stone became only the second Asian American to serve in the House after the 2020 election, and Democrat Megan Srinivas was also elected in November. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Elinor Levin is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. She and Zabner are also the first Jews to serve in the chamber for more than three decades. Abdul-Samad is the only Muslim member of the House, and Srinivas is Hindu.

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 biggest change is that House Speaker Pat Grassley created an Education Reform Committee to consider the governor’s school voucher plan and other controversial education bills. The House also eliminated the Information Technology Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 100 Iowa House members include two with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Thompsons and a Thomson (all Republicans). As for popular first names, there are four men named David or Dave, four named Thomas or Tom, three Roberts (a Robert, a Bob, and a Bobby), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), a Jon and two Johns, two named Charles (a Chuck and a Charley), and two men each named Jeff, Ken, Steve, Matt, Austin, and Josh or Joshua. There are also two Elizabeths (one goes by Beth), an Ann and an Anne, and two women each named Heather, Megan, and Shannon. As recently as 2020, four women named Mary served in the Iowa House, but just one was sworn in this week.

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Senior GOP lawmaker misled elderly Iowan on early voting options

State Representative John Wills bragged in a recent Facebook post that he had reassured an elderly housebound voter, who was worried about getting an absentee ballot. The third-ranking Iowa House Republican told the story to show the “mantra that Republicans are trying to prevent people who don’t think like us from voting is false.”

More than a dozen Iowa Republican lawmakers and legislative candidates liked Wills’ self-congratulatory post.

There was just one problem: thanks to changes Wills and his colleagues enacted in 2021, the deadline for that woman to request an absentee ballot had already passed.

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Iowa's new garbage search law looks unconstitutional

Iowans have “no reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage placed outside of the person’s residence for waste collection in a publicly accessible area,” according to a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law on April 21.

Lawmakers approved Senate File 2296 in response to a June 2021 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which declared warrantless garbage searches unconstitutional.

Whether the new law can withstand scrutiny is unclear. Attorneys who opposed the bill have pointed out that the legislature and governor cannot override the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution. But it could be years before a challenge to the law reaches the high court.

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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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