Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, is asking Republicans in the Iowa Senate to "take a deep breath" and rethink their decision to reject the man he chose to be the state’s Public Safety Commissioner. Last night, all but two Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted against confirming Gene Meyer as Public Safety Commissioner.
"What I’m asking the Republican senators to do is not put partisan politics over public safety," Culver said this morning during a news conference at the statehouse. Three dozen troopers and others in law enforcement — as well as Republican legislators from the Iowa House, crowded into the room in a show of support.
Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, is a retired state trooper who contends Meyer is the most qualified person for the job. "When the news hit yesterday that Gene was not going to be confirmed, my phone lit up," Baudler said. "Trooper after trooper after trooper described him as a breath of fresh air. You can go in his office and get an answer, for a change." Baudler, who admitted to holding his temper and his tongue because the television cameras were rolling, asked Republican senators to reconsider their opposition to Meyers.
"Public safety is not a partisan issue. It should never be a partisan issue," Baudler said, slamming his hand on the lectern. "We should go for the best-qualified person and quite frankly I think in this instance the governor made a good decision." Those sentiments were echoed by Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamachus.
"I want to start out by simply saying that I’m a Republican — I want you to know that upfront," Kamachus told reporters. "By the same token, in my 20 years as Sheriff of Marshall County and my presidency of the National Sheriffs Association as the past-president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, partisan politics has no place in public safety — it has no place whatsoever."
Kamachus said he is "extremely" discouraged by the Republican senators’ decision. Meyer, a registered Independent, admits he was surprised Republican senators opposed his appointment since not one of them raised concerns when he met face-to-face with them. Meyer retired from his job as head of the Division of Criminal Investigation last year, but newly-elected Governor Chet Culver asked him to be his Public Safety Commissioner.
"I was very humbled and honored when called by the governor and asked if I would be willing to return to state government," Meyer told reporters. "…I did so because public safety is my life and I’ve always been honored by the fact that maybe I could just make a little bit of difference in the lives of Iowans." The governor saluted Meyer’s 40 years of service in the Iowa Department of Public Safety — and his 20 years of volunteer service as a school board member and mayor of West Des Moines.
"I am confident that if everyone is given a chance to take a step back and take a deep breath, that the Republican senators will reconsider," Culver said. "I ask them, respectfully, to do so."
Republican senators met privately this morning and emerged to say they aren’t backing down and refuse to confirm Meyer for the job.