A Marshalltown man who ran unsuccessfully for the Iowa Senate last fall has resigned from the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission. Governor Vilsack appointed Wayne Sawtelle to the commission in January, but most Republican senators balked at the idea of granting Sawtelle the job. Sawtelle tried to unseat Republican state Senator Larry McKibben of Marshalltown last fall, but failed, and Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, accuses McKibben of derailing Sawtelle’s nomination. “I believe Larry McKibben while publicly professing to support Wayne Sawtelle in fact asked Republican senators to vote no and those that he heard were considering voting yes, he actively went to them and discouraged them from doing that,” Gronstal says. Gronstal says that was a mistake and Marshalltown is now denied an opportunity to have a local advocate on the Transportation Commission. “I think the blame falls squarely on Senator McKibben,” Gronstal says.McKibben did not respond to a request for an interview. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, says Gronstal is off-base. “This was a vote that was never close and it was all on qualifications,” Lamberti says. Lamberti says Sawtelle is a “nice guy” but was not qualified to serve on the Transportation Commission. Democrats say when former Governor Branstad nominated a Republican who had unsuccessfully challenged a Democratic state Senator to the same state commission, they allowed Branstad to have his way.Sawtelle issued a brief statement this (Thursday) afternoon, saying he “regretfully submitted” his resignation, but acknowledged he did not have enough support in the Senate to be confirmed for the job.Governor Vilsack issued a statement, calling Sawtelle “a dedicated Iowan who served the state and his community well.” Senators have ’til April 15th to either accept or reject Vilsack’s selections for state boards and commissions. Sawtelle is the only nominee who did not win confirmation. To win confirmation, a nominee must have the support of 34 senators.
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