The end of the 2004 Legislative session marked the end the lengthy career of a lawmaker who was once commander of a minesweeper in the Navy. Seventy-six-year-old Dick Drake, a farmer from Muscatine who describes himself as a “middle-of-the-road” republican, has been a state senator for 36 years. Senate leaders say that’s likely the longest tenure, ever, for a state legislator. Many senators say Drake has been one of the best behind-the-scenes negotiators who can take complicated issues and find workable solutions. Drake says there’s no secret formula to lawmaking. Drake says there’s only one way to learn: “trial and error.” Drake says 36 years ago, the state had a one billion dollar budget. Today it’s nearly five billion.Drake says “everything’s is generally more complicated than it was just a few years ago.” Drake came to the Iowa Senate after winning a special election. Drake says his first win was “very unexpected” and he never thought he’d spend almost four decades in the senate.One thing he says helped was that he went 24 years without an opponent. Drake graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during service that began near the end of World War Two and ended after the Korean war. Drake says he gained a world perspective that’s helped him later in his legislative life. Drake says he went to 40 different countries through his Navy service, so he “knew a lot about how the world was put together.” Representative John Connors of Des Moines, another long-serving state legislator, has decided not to seek reelection after serving 32 years in the Iowa House. Connors, who is 71 years old, is a retired firefighter.
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