A 35-year-old Des Moines lawyer is the newest face among the leaders in the state legislature. House Speaker-elect Pat Murphy has been a legislator for 16 years. The other leader for House Democrats is a relative newcomber by comparison.

State Representative Kevin McCarthy, a prosecutor in the Polk County Attorney’s office, has been in the legislature just four years. But McCarthy had a prominent role in crafting anti-meth legislation in the spring of 2005 and he helped orchestrate this fall’s election victories for statehouse Democrats. Late last week, McCarthy’s fellow House Democrats voted to make him House Majority Leader when the legislature convenes in January. It means he’ll be in charge of the debate schedule.

McCarthy says Democrats have agreed to “chart a centrist course” when it comes to issues. “We’re going to be a party that governs in the main stream and not the extreme and that means having all voices at the table,” McCarthy says. “…There’s always a balance to be struck.”

McCarthy has an answer for liberals in his party who question his support of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman’s 2004 bid for the presidency. “Let’s put it in perspective. Joe Lieberman had just come off being our party’s vice presidential nominee that received several hundred thousand votes than Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney,” McCarthy says. “That was the context in which I supported Joe Lieberman and was proud to do so.”

While some groups like labor unions are pushing for prompt action on a variety of issues since Democrats will be in control of the House, Senate and governorship in January, McCarthy’s publicly pushing a more moderate approach. “We’re not going to be like kids at the candy store — we’ve been waiting for years and years to get in and now we have control, let’s eat all the candy. We’re promised business groups that they’re going to have a seat at the table, too,” McCarthy says. “If we do some things that are more worker-friendly, more environmentally-friendly for example, we’re going to also have business at the table to say ‘How can we provide some incentives to you? How can we proceed in a very balanced fashion?'”

McCarthy promises that Democrats will govern in a “mainstream way” and take a “step toward” Republicans on the major issues facing the state. “Compromise is not always a bad word,” McCarthy says. “Good legislation can come out of compromise.” House Speaker-Elect Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says Democrats understand there are limits on what they can accomplish and will look for “middle-ground solutions.”

Murphy says Democrats will use their “opportunity to govern” in a “responsible fashion.” Both men made their comments this weekend on Iowa Public Television.