There was a coup of sorts at the statehouse Monday night. Amidst angst over prospects in the November election, Senate Republicans have elected a new leader. The 25 Republicans in the Iowa Senate met privately late Monday to talk strategy. The discussion led to a vote that deposed Stewart Iverson of Clarion as the GOP leader in the Senate and elected Mary Lundby of Marion as the Republican’s floor manager.
Iverson spoke with Radio Iowa late last night. “I heard this afternoon that there were some folks unhappy with the direction that I guess I was going,” Iverson said. Thirteen of the 25 Republicans in the Senate pressed for an election to choose new leadership, according to Iverson. Iverson was elected Senate Majority Leader in 1996 when Republicans seized control of the debate agenda by winning a majority of seats in the Senate.
Republicans lost seats in the 2004 election and for the past two years have been sharing power with Democrats as both Republicans and Democrats hold 25 seats in the 50-member Senate.
Iverson said he has no regrets. “During that time, you know, you have to make decisions every day that you’re not always popular with,” Iverson said. “I tried very hard to listen…and lead.”
Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, spoke with Radio Iowa late last night, too. “I think in general people wanted to have a different direction, a different focus on the upcoming elections,” Lamberti said. “I don’t think it was any one thing but it was just a desire to move forward in a different direction.”
Lamberti has served as a Republican legislative leader alongside Iverson for the past three years. “Stew has served…well for I think longer than anybody has held that position in history of the Iowa Senate and I have nothing but praise for the job he’s done over those years…so I certainly have mixed feelings,” Lamberti said. “At the same time I’m excited about moving forward because I think we’ll have a different focus, a new energy and we really believe that, contrary to a lot of popular opinion, that with a new strategy and a new viewpoint we have an opportunity to regain control of the Iowa Senate.”
Lamberti is not seeking re-election to the Senate and is running for Congress instead. Iverson, too, may decide not to seek re-election to the Senate. “I don’t know,” Iverson said. “I just take one day at a time.”
Lundby was not available by phone or email last night. This is the second time Lundby has sought a leadership position in the legislature. In 1992, Lundby put over 150,000 miles on her car campaigning across the state for Republicans seeking seats in the Iowa House and helped the GOP gain a majority in the House. The House Republicans, however, elected a longer-serving lawmaker to the job of House Speaker in 1993. Lundby then left the House and ran for the Senate in 1994 where she has emerged as a leader in this year’s battles over TouchPlay and the unfolding scandal over a central Iowa job training program.
Lundby’s biggest battle in the past year, though, was against ovarian cancer. Lundby was diagnosed this past summer, sought aggressive treatment and Lundby told Radio Iowa in January that her doctor pronounced her “cancer-free.”