Senator Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs had been the legislature’s top Democrat until he was defeated in November.
Soon after, Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids was chosen by his colleagues to be the leader of Senate Democrats.
“I want to extend my thanks to my Democratic colleagues…and I hope my service will meet with your approval,” Hogg said a week ago to begin his speech on the legislature’s opening day.
Hogg’s new title is senate minority leader. Hogg views the post as a sort of “facilitator.”
“I don’t see myself as the person who’s going to kind of lead the charge and everybody has to march right behind me,” Hogg said during an interview with Radio Iowa and The Cedar Rapids Gazette. “I see it as kind of a big team effort and I’m the leader of that team effort in the legislature.”
Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City said Hogg has the ability to “consolidate” the views of his fellow Democrats.
“He’s articulate. He’s smart. He knows the issues. He knows the politics around this place,” Bolkcom said.
There’s a “campaign element” to the job and Hogg is starting to recruit candidates for 2018. His goal is to have a Democratic candidate in all 25 senate races.
“So that Iowans across our state can hear: ‘What do Democratic candidates want to do? What do Democrats believe in?'” Hogg said. “And that we compete across our state.”
Hogg plans to run for reelection in his own senate district next year and he told Radio Iowa he does not plan to run for governor.
In the opening week of the 2017 legislative session, Hogg urged Republicans to embrace “bread and butter issues,” like raising the minimum wage, but he’s calling for public safety to be priority number one.
“As we begin this session, I pledge that Senate Democrats will focus on real solutions to real problems,” Hogg said. “…Let’s start with the tragic increase in deadly Iowa traffic accidents.”
Hogg suggests that the Senate quickly vote to making texting while driving a primary offense. Two years ago, the Senate voted 44 to six to let law enforcement officers pull a vehicle over if they suspect the driver is texting.
Hogg is a lawyer who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016. He got nearly 39 percent support in the four-way primary that was won by Patty Judge. Hogg’s great grandfather was a judge on the Iowa Supreme Court. His grandfather was the dean of the University of Iowa law school for 37 years.
“Much has changed since my grandfather was born in Sheldon,” Hogg said. “…But Iowans are still the responsible, practice, hardworking, community-minded people today that we were then.”
Hogg has been a legislator since January of 2003, when he was sworn in as a member of the Iowa House. He’s been a senator for a decade.