In an historic shift, the state Senate will likely be split evenly between republicans and democrats as a result of Tuesday’s election. Twenty-five republicans and 25 democrats will begin work in January when the Legislature convenes. Governor Tom Vilsack, a democrat, met with legislative leaders from both parties yesterday. “The purpose of that lunch was to make sure they understood that I was committed to beginning to move on what I would refer to as the ‘people’s agenda,'” Vilsack told reporters. “The partisanship is over. The election is over and it is now time for us to come back together so we can begin the process of governing.” Vilsack rebuffed the idea the partisan split in the Senate is a recipe for gridlock. “It’s an opportunity for us to really work together in a bipartisan way,” Vilsack said. “Iowans expect us to work together; they expect us to put the partisanship of an election behind.” Vilsack actively campaigned for democratic legislative candidates and was a key backer of democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. On Wednesday, though, Vilsack was striking a conciliatory tone, and pledged to work with “folks from both sides of the aisle.” Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says two senate races will likely be challenged, and votes will be recounted, but he anticipates a 25/25 split in the Senate in January. Iverson says he’s not happy with the election outcome, but the people of Iowa expect lawmakers to govern. “Are we going to have some differences of agreement on some things? Well of course we are,” Iverson says. “I think what you’ll see a lot more what I call centralist things. I don’t think you’ll see any thing extreme from either party. Do I think we can still move the state of Iowa forward? Yes.”Republicans will start out with just 24 members present to vote in the 2005 Legislature as State Senator Chuck Larson, Junior of Cedar Rapids is on active military duty in Iraq. If Larson doesn’t return before the Legislature begins, that means democrats will have a one-vote edge over republicans and will likely be able to choose who is the President of the Senate. Current Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, will likely run against Iverson to be the republican leader in the Senate. Lamberti, though, was putting a positive spin on the whole situation during a news conference yesterday afternoon. “It’s nothing that Stew or I have ever dealt with so we’re going to have to work our way through that and we’re looking forward to doing that and while it presents some challenges I think it also presents some opportunities,” Lamberti said. “Neither side can accomplish much if we don’t work together and try to find common ground,” Lamberti said. Michael Gronstal, the current leader of Senate Democrats, did not respond to Radio Iowa’s request for an interview.
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