Who's who in the Iowa House for 2021

The Iowa House opened its 2021 session on January 11 with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats, a big improvement for the GOP from last year’s 53-47 split.

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 last year.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) will 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.

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Record number of women will serve in Iowa Senate; fewer elected to House

Second in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

The non-profit 50-50 in 2020 dissolved early this year after working for a decade to increase women’s representation in Iowa politics. Although our state has elected a woman governor, a woman to the U.S. Senate (twice), and will have women representing three of the the four Congressional districts for the next two years, we have a long way to go toward parity in the Iowa legislature.

When lawmakers convene in Des Moines in January, women will make up one-quarter of the Iowa Senate for the first time. However, the number of women serving in the House will drop below one-third of the chamber.

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Where are the freedom fighters? A plea for help from a beleaguered Black man

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker: “Until a renewed season of action on the hard issues springs forth from the Iowa Democratic Party, my people will continue to freeze in the long winters of apathy, and die during the hot summers of violence.” -promoted by Laura Belin

During a recent Facebook Live conversation with Kimberly Graham where we discussed issues facing the African-American community, I recounted a high-profile officer-involved shooting that happened in my neighborhood shortly after I was elected. It was during this very conversation, in real-time, that I realized this officer-involved shooting fundamentally changed who I was as a public servant.

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Liz Bennett facing fake Democrat in Iowa House district 65 primary

UPDATE: Bennett received about 94 percent of the vote in the June 2 primary.

A Republican would have no prayer of winning Iowa House district 65. Two-thirds of the voters in this part of Cedar Rapids (map enclosed below) supported President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, and more than 61 percent backed Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election.

State Representative Liz Bennett defeated her last two Republican opponents, Harry Foster in 2016 and George Olmstead in 2018, by two to one margins. Fred Hubbell likewise more than doubled the vote for Governor Kim Reynolds in the House district 65 precincts. The area contains 9,265 active registered Democrats, 3,711 Republicans, and 5,848 no-party voters, according to the latest official figures.

No one is seeking the GOP nomination in House district 65 this year. Instead, lifelong conservative Foster is trying to sneak into the seat by masquerading as a Democrat.

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State Patrol must respect civil rights at Iowa Capitol

Iowa lawmakers have never enacted a “bathroom ban” targeting transgender people, but some State Patrol officers took it upon themselves to enforce that non-existent policy at the Capitol on March 12.

Security guards forced a large group of students to leave the building because some of the teens had used restrooms conforming to their gender identity.

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Iowa House unanimously votes to outlaw "gay/trans panic" defense

Iowa House members voted 95 to 0 on March 5 to prohibit criminal defendants from claiming any violent crime was justified because of emotions related to discovering the victim’s “sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

House Judiciary Committee chair Steven Holt introduced the bill later renamed House File 2503. The initial draft applied to those charged with causing the death of another person. An amendment drafted by Republican State Representative Bobby Kaufmann and Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett broadened the scope to cover anyone accused of a violent crime.

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