DES MOINES — Defeated and divided Republicans in the Iowa Senate chose their leaders Friday, but only after a walkout by a disgruntled group of conservatives.
The Senate GOP lost five seats in Tuesday’s election, which gave Democrats a 30-20 majority in the chamber.
GOP members re-elected Sen. Mary Lundby of Marion as their top leader during a closed-door meeting at the Statehouse. But before the vote, eight Republican senators walked out of the session.
“We took an unusual beating in this last election and we must change direction,” said Sen. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, who led the walkout. “We believe we must get back to the principles that brought Republicans to the forefront 20 years ago when Ronald Reagan ran.”
McKinley was joined by veteran Sens. Mark Zieman of Postville, Steve Kettering of Lake View, Brad Zaun of Urbandale, Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Jerry Behn of Boone, Jim Hahn of Muscatine and incoming freshman Senator-elect David Hartsuch of Bettendorf.
“It’s about getting back to our base,” Zieman said.
He contends the split occurred when conservatives were not allowed to discuss issues before the vote.
The Republicans who remained chose Lundby unanimously. Senator-elect Larry Noble of Ankeny was absent.
“There are a lot of Republicans who are unhappy. I was sorry that there’s been a division at this time,” Lundby said. “We’ll be waiting for them to come back.”
Lundby said she is confident Republicans will put up a unified front.
“We’re good, hard-working, strong Iowans. We all have strong opinions,” she added. “That doesn’t make me a bit nervous.”
Along with Lundby, Republicans elected four assistant minority leaders, including Sens. Ron Wieck of Sioux City, David Johnson of Ocheyedan, Larry McKibben of Marshalltown and Jeff Angelo of Creston.
Leadership elections likely will be more tranquil for victorious Democrats.
Democrats are expected to re-elect Sen. Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs as their leader and Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg as Senate president.
Todd Dorman can be contacted at (515) 243-0138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.