A gay Republican who was his party’s candidate for congress in 1984 does not have enough support from Republicans in the Iowa Senate to serve on a state commission.
Governor Chet Culver appointed Rich Eychaner, a Des Moines businessman, to serve on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. But Eychaner needs the support of at least four Republicans in the Senate — along with the 30 Democrats — to be able to serve on the commission.
Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion says there are questions about Eychaner’s politics. "During the Vilsack Administration, we struggled with some appointments where people changed (party) registration to fit into an appointment slot," Lundby says. "With Mr. Eychaner, he was a Democrat for a while. Last week, he became a Republican. That always sends a red flag."
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs is skeptical. "I think it’s pretty safe to say that based on just about any kind of measure you want to take, certainly over 98 percent of his life (Eychaner) has been a registered Republican and has participated in Republican politics," Gronstal says.
Gronstal, though, isn’t willing to accuse Republicans of opposing Eychaner because he is gay. "I won’t project motives on the Senate Republicans," Gronstal says.
Lundby says Eychaner’s homosexuality has no bearing on the decision Republicans have made to oppose his appointment to the Civil Rights Commission. "It never came up once," Lundby says.
Eychaner has personally lobbied legislators to enact a law which would require schools in Iowa to adopt anti-harassment policies protecting gay students. Eychaner is also the benefactor of a college scholarship for Iowa high schoolers who are openly gay.