# Roger Wendt



Rest in peace, Roger Wendt

Former State Representative Roger Wendt of Sioux City died last night at the age of 77, following a long battle with lung cancer. After many years of remission, his cancer returned last year, forcing Wendt to step down after four terms in the Iowa House.

Wendt spent more than 40 years of his life working in education, first as a teacher and later as a principal. As chair of the Iowa House Education Committee, he was a crucial backer of key bills, from the 2007 “Iowa Safe School” anti-bullying act to the statewide voluntary preschool program for four-year-olds to the model core curriculum. Wendt also supported changing state law to address inequities in school building funding between rural school districts and those in urban or suburban areas with major shopping venues.

I didn’t know Wendt, but people who worked with him always spoke very highly of his professionalism and concern for Iowa children.

The Iowa House won’t gavel in until 3:30 pm on April 4 so that members can attend their former colleague’s funeral. Visitation for Wendt takes place Sunday, April 3, from 3 to 5 pm at the Meyer Brothers Chapel, 3220 Stone Park Blvd in Sioux City. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 am on April 4 at Faith Lutheran Church, 3101 Hamilton Blvd in Sioux City.

Share any thoughts or memories of Roger Wendt in this thread.

UPDATE: Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal posted his tribute to Wendt here.

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Looking for a few good Democrats in Sioux City

Sioux City residents will replace their entire delegation in the Iowa House and Senate this November. Democrat Steve Warnstadt announced his retirement yesterday from Iowa Senate district 1, which comprises much of Sioux City (map here). Warnstadt is completing his second term in the Senate and has chaired the upper chamber’s Commerce Committee. He is known for his work on veterans’ issues, among other things, and commands the 671st Troop Command of the Iowa Army National Guard.

Two-term Republican State Senator Ron Wieck told Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal last week that he will not seek re-election in Senate district 27. The district comprises all of Cherokee County and portions of Plymouth and Woodbury counties, including the southern areas of Sioux City (map here).

All three Iowa House seats representing the Sioux City area are open as well. Democrat Wes Whitead announced his retirement from House district 1 last November. Democrat Roger Wendt is stepping down from House district 2 because of a cancer recurrence. Republican Chris Rants is retiring from House district 54.

Businessman and former Woodbury County Democratic Party chairman Rick Mullin had previously planned to run in House district 1, but he switched to the Senate race after learning of Warnstadt’s retirement. Mullin’s campaign website had already been updated this morning. While he is a strong candidate in a district that leans Democratic (Warnstadt was re-elected in 2006 with about 67 percent of the vote), I can’t help wishing that Warnstadt had stuck it out for another term. It’s not ideal to have another Democratic retirement in what could be a tough year for our candidates nationwide.

Republican Rick Bertrand may become Mullin’s opponent in Senate district 1, having previously announced plans to run in House district 2.

Democrats already have a candidate in House district 54: Carlos Venable-Ridley, who ran against Rants in 2008. However, no candidates have announced for us in House districts 1 and 2. Since the filing deadline is just 10 days away, we should learn more soon. We need strong candidates for those races, because we have some tough holds elsewhere, and Republicans only need a net gain of seven seats to take control of the Iowa House. The Republican candidate in House district 1 is Jeremy Taylor, who nearly defeated Whitead in 2008. If Bertrand passes on the Senate district 1 race, he will be the Republican candidate in House district 2. He gave Wendt a surprisingly close race in 2008.

As for Senate district 27, Democrats did not field a candidate against Wieck when he ran for re-election in 2006. Typically we don’t leave any open seat unchallenged, but finding a candidate for Weick’s old seat will be a lower priority for Woodbury County Democrats than filling the House district 1 and 2 races. Republicans may have a competitive primary in Senate district 27. Hayworth reported that former Sioux City Councilman Jason Geary is seeking the GOP nomination and has Wieck’s backing. Bill Anderson, a staffer for Representative Steve King and member of the Iowa GOP’s state central committee, may challenge Geary in the primary. Woodbury County Republican Party parliamentarian Steve Carlson “declined to comment” to Hayworth about whether he might run for Wieck’s seat.

If I were Iowa Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign Director Derek Eadon, I would send one of my best field organizers to Woodbury County. We need an army of volunteers in the Sioux City area.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: Mullin formally announced his candidacy on March 10.

“As a small business owner, I’ve created jobs and met a payroll,” said Mullin. “And helping middle class Iowans and small business owners in Sioux City emerge from this national economic recession will be my top priority.”

Mullin is the owner and president of Mullin Awning & Siding, a family-owned business that has operated in the Sioux City area for more than 115 years.

“I’ve been involved in the Sioux City community for all of my life,” said Mullin. “And I want to take the values I learned growing up in Sioux City with me to the State Capitol where I’ll work every day to improve the lives of the people of Senate District 1. I will fight for good jobs, great schools, developing our local economy and providing accountability for the hard-earned tax dollars of Iowans in Sioux City.”

Mullin is a leader in the Sioux City community. He served as president of the Better Business Bureau of Siouxland from 1981-1984; he was past president of the Sioux City Convention Center, Auditorium & Tourism Bureau. Mullin was President of the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors from 2005-2007 and also served as vice president of the Taxpayers Research Council (TRC), during which time he founded the TRC Jail Committee to determine the necessity for building a new $50 million County Jail. Rick hosted informal meetings with judges, prosecutors, jailers and others and found creative solutions to avoid spending $50 million of taxpayer dollars.

“I think bringing people together and listening is the best way to find a solution to the problems that we face today,” said Mullin. “I’m proud of the work we did on the jail committee to figure out how to save $50 million for the taxpayers in Woodbury County. Listening to all sides of the issues and coming up with workable, cost-effective solutions will be how I represent the people of Senate District 1.”

Rick and his wife Sue have two children, Megan and John. Sue is a special education teacher at Crescent Park Elementary in Sioux City.

“I’m going to be meeting as many people as I can in Senate District 1 over the next several months. If you’ve got an idea about how to move Sioux City forward, then I want to hear from you.”

Mullin’s campaign co-chairs are prominent Sioux City attorney Marv Heidman and Senator Steve Warnstadt.

Mullin said that people can contact him at home, at (712) 574-9325 or email him at rick@mullinforiowa.com. To find out more about his campaign, visit www.mullinforiowa.com.

Warnstadt released a statement on March 10, saying, “I believe that Rick Mullin’s record of community involvement and strong work ethic will make him an effective advocate for the people of Sioux City. Rick’s experience as a small business owner will help efforts to attract and retain good-paying jobs to Sioux City. Rick Mullin will make a great state senator.”

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State Representative Wendt (D) stepping down for health reasons

Charlotte Eby reports that Democratic State Representative Roger Wendt won’t return for the rest of the current legislative session or seek re-election this year because of a “serious unnamed medical condition.” I will update this post as more is known about Wendt’s condition. I’m sure the Bleeding Heartland community joins me in hoping that Wendt will receive the medical care he needs now.

UPDATE: Bret Hayworth reports that Wendt has lung cancer. He had apparently been cancer-free since beating the disease in his other lung 17 years ago. Best wishes for another full recovery.

Wendt was first elected to House district 2 in 2002. The district includes part of Sioux City (here is a map (pdf file). In 2008, Wendt defeated Republican Rick Bertrand with about 51.5 percent of the vote. Bertrand is running again this year.

Democrats hold a 56-44 majority in the Iowa House, but leaders haven’t always been able to find 51 votes to pass bills on their agenda, particularly relating to labor and taxation. Wendt’s departure will complicate efforts to pass House File 2420, the “fair share” bill that would require non-union public employees to compensate the union for bargaining services done on their behalf.

Woodbury County Democrats will have to work harder than ever on getting the vote out this year. In November, State Representative Wes Whitead announced plans to retire from House district 1, which is also in the Sioux City area. Rick Mullin, a past chair of the Woodbury County Democrats, will face Republican Jeremy Taylor in the first district. Taylor nearly defeated Whitead in 2008.

Republican State Representative Chris Rants is retiring from House district 54 this year, leaving a third open seat in Woodbury County. That district, which stretches from southeastern Sioux City to the Sergeant Bluff area, is less friendly territory for Democrats. I believe we have better pickup opportunities in House district 74 in Warren County and in House district 51 in Carroll County, which Republican Rod Roberts is vacating in order to run for governor this year.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register’s blog recounts some highlights from Wendt’s career. He left a mark on this state’s education policy while chairing the House Education Committee:

* Wendt fought for a model core curriculum, intended to give all students the same strong education foundation, in 2008.

* He supported an anti-bullying law. The legislation in 2007 forced public and private schools to have policies that prevent and punish bullying or harassment of any student, including based on sexual orientation.

* Wendt was one of the lawmakers who led the charge three years ago on a statewide sales tax to raise money for school building projects. The old method was more piecemeal – counties voted periodically on a tax for their area. Urban schools, where most shopping and sales taxes happen, raked in more money, while rural districts felt funding inequity. Money is distributed equally per pupil across the state now.

* He began speaking out about a “dramatic need” for preschool programs in 2005.   Two years later, a law passed so that nearly all of Iowa’s 4-year-olds could attend preschool on a voluntary basis, paid for by the state and taught by licensed teachers.

* He helped make high school more rigorous. He believed that students – and their parents – need to take high school more seriously. Too many students coast in their junior and senior years, he said.

LATE UDPATE: Dave Price notes that three other Iowa legislators are currently battling cancer: Republican State Senators David Johnson and Pat Ward and Democratic State Representative Paul Bell. Wishing them all a full recovery.  

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