# Josh Turek



A raise for Iowa lawmakers is long overdue

State Representative Joel Fry floor manages a bill on raising elected officials’ salaries on April 18

Before adjourning for the year on April 20, the Iowa Senate did not take up a last-minute bill from the House that would have given state legislators and statewide elected officials a $10,000 raise, effective 2025.

Lawmakers should not wait until the closing days of the next session to address this issue. Stagnant, relatively low salaries are a real barrier to bringing more diverse perspectives and life experiences to the statehouse.

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Let Iowans with disabilities Work Without Worry

Supporters of the Work Without Worry bill lobby at the state capitol on March 12. From left: Derek Fike, State Representative Josh Turek, Jordan True, Julie Russell-Steuart, and Jen Sinkler.

Jordan True chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus. He emailed the message enclosed below to Republican members of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee on March 13.

Honorable Representatives of the House Appropriations Committee,

Please support appropriations for HF 2589 Work Without Worry by asking Chair Gary Mohr to assign to a subcommittee and schedule a vote as soon as possible in the Appropriations Committee. Although this bill has survived the funnel, please help employed people with disabilities get this through appropriations, through the House, and onto the Senate by the end of March. 

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"It's embarrassing"—Democrats slam do-nothing Iowa House environment panel

From left: Democratic State Representatives Austin Baeth, Molly Buck, Josh Turek, Elinor Levin, Sharon Steckman, and Adam Zabner. Screenshot from video posted to Facebook on February 8.

“When I joined Environmental Protection, I never envisioned that I would be talking about a raccoon bounty, but here we are,” Democratic State Representative Josh Turek said on February 7, while the House Environmental Protection Committee considered the only bill on the agenda that day.

As they weighed in on the bill, Democrats voiced broader frustrations about the committee’s failure to engage with any of Iowa’s serious environmental challenges.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2024

Photo by Carl Olsen of the Iowa House chamber in 2020

Iowa House members return to Des Moines on January 8 for the opening day of the 2024 legislative session. Although the balance of power remains the same (64 Republicans, 36 Democrats), I’m publishing a new version of this post to note small changes in leadership or among the chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session.

Thirty-eight House members (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) are serving their first term in the legislature. 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 in 2021 and 2022. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

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A pioneering Iowa Democrat: Don't tell Josh Turek what can't be done

State Representative Josh Turek talks with 6-year-old Hayes Hofmeister in Des Moines during a recent summit on advocacy for people with disabilities. Photo by Douglas Burns.

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist. He is the co-founder of the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation and a member of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, where this article first appeared on The Iowa Mercury newsletter. His family operated the Carroll Times Herald for 93 years in Carroll, Iowa where Burns resides.

Six-year-old Hayes Hofmeister of rural Cedar Rapids, a Springville, Iowa farm kid, can’t stop talking about Josh Turek — “that guy in the wheelchair” — the one who plays basketball and has Paralympics gold medals. The one who inspired him at Camp Sunnyside.

Born with Spina Bifida, Hayes, a bright-eyed kindergartner excitedly rolled his own wheelchair toward State Representative Josh Turek of Council Bluffs at the Easterseals Camp in Des Moines on a recent fall Saturday morning. They started talking, one on one, as Hayes’ mom and grandmother beamed.

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Six ways the GOP budget shortchanged Iowans with disabilities

The biggest stories of the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session are well known. Before adjourning for the year on May 4, historically large Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Senate gave Governor Kim Reynolds almost everything on her wish list. They reshaped K-12 public schools; passed several bills targeting LGBTQ Iowans; enacted new hurdles for Iowans on public assistance; cut property taxes; reorganized state government to increase the power of the governor and “her” attorney general; and undermined the state auditor’s ability to conduct independent audits.

Many other newsworthy stories received little attention during what will be remembered as one of the Iowa legislature’s most influential sessions. This post is the first in a series highlighting lesser-known bills or policies that made it through both chambers in 2023, or failed to reach the governor’s desk.


As the Iowa House and Senate debated one appropriations bill after another last week, Democrats repeatedly objected to plans that imposed status quo budgets or small increases (well below the rate of inflation) on services for disadvantaged Iowans.

Iowans with disabilities or special needs were not a priority in the education and health and human services budgets that top Republican lawmakers negotiated behind closed doors.

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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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Iowa Democrats can win again—and soon

Zach Meunier is the previous campaign manager of Rob Sand for Iowa, Rita Hart for Iowa, and Dave Loebsack for Congress.

Enough with the doom-and-gloom.

Campaign managers are not optimists by nature. One of my professional mentors described a campaign manager’s job as “thinking of all the ways you can lose, then working every day to stop that from happening.” So I have found myself in a very strange position in the last month, as the guy arguing that joy cometh in the morning for Iowa Democrats.

Yes, it has been a brutal decade for Iowa Democrats. 2022 was the culmination. Two historical trends that favored the GOP converged in the same year. For the first time since 1986, Republicans had an incumbent governor and U.S. senator running for re-election together, a powerful combination. For the first time since 1962, it was a midterm for a Democratic president who had not won Iowa.

Those factors contributed to a red wave cresting in Iowa when it failed to materialize in most other states. But what lies ahead?

After spending a few weeks looking under the hood of the election data we have available, I have reached one inescapable conclusion. There is a clear path for Democrats to win again in Iowa at all levels: statewide, Congressional, and legislative. In important ways, Iowa still bucks national trends of partisan voting, and the makeup of the Iowa electorate is not locked in stone.

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Democrats prevail in three Iowa House races after recounts

Democrats have officially won three close Iowa House races following recounts completed this week, confirming that the party will hold at least 36 of the 100 seats in the chamber next year.

In House district 20, covering part of Council Bluffs and Carter Lake in Pottawattamie County, the final vote tally narrowed Josh Turek’s lead over Republican Sarah Abdouch by one vote. He ended up winning by six: 3,403 votes to 3,397 (50.0 percent to 49.9 percent). Turek, who uses a wheelchair, will be the first disability rights advocate elected to the legislature.

In House district 42, covering part of Ankeny, Heather Matson remained 23 votes ahead of GOP State Representative Garrett Gobble: 6,991 votes to 6,968 (50.0 percent to 49.8 percent).

This area is by far the “swingiest” current Iowa House terrain. In a district covering much of the same territory, Republican State Representative Kevin Koester held off a challenge from Matson in 2016, then lost to the Democrat two years later. Republican Garrett Gobble narrowly defeated Matson in 2020, only to lose an even closer race this year.

In House district 72, covering part of the city of Dubuque and some areas of Dubuque County outside the city, State Representative Chuck Isenhart’s lead over Jennifer Smith shrank from 95 votes to 94. Final tally: 6,164 to 6,070 (50.3 percent to 49.6 percent).

Click here for maps, voter registration totals, and recent voting history for all of the districts where Republicans requested recounts.

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Republicans seeking recounts in six Iowa House races

This post has been updated with final counts from the races (Democrats prevailed in five). Original post follows.

All 99 Iowa counties have finished counting their votes, clearing the way for recounts to begin. None of the 34 state Senate races were decided by a razor-thin margin this year, but Republican candidates have requested or will ask for recounts in six of the 100 state House races.

Two of those elections are very close, two others were decided by margins under 100 votes, and the last two are not remotely within striking distance for the losing candidate.

If every candidate now leading remains ahead after the recount, the GOP would have a 63-37 majority next year, up from 60-40 currently. In the fourteen years I’ve closely followed Iowa legislative races, I’ve never seen a recount change the winner.

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Iowa legislature may be more diverse after 2022 election

Iowans may elect more people from under-represented populations to the state legislature in 2022, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of the primary and general election candidate filings indicates.

One barrier will certainly be broken: as the only candidate to file in House district 78, Democrat Sami Scheetz will become the first Arab American to serve in our state legislature.

The lawmakers who convene at the statehouse next January may also include Iowa’s first Jewish legislator in nearly three decades as well as more people of color, more LGBTQ people, and the first Paralympian.

A forthcoming post will discuss prospects for electing more women to the Iowa House and Senate.

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