Republicans have lost seats in the Iowa House in four consecutive elections. On Monday, Republican members in the chamber selected a new leader. Representative Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is the new House Minority Leader, replacing Chris Rants of Sioux City.
"I’m excited about the honor that the caucus has bestowed on me," Paulson said. "I’m extremely appreciative of what Christopher Rants has done for the caucus over the past few years and I look forward to serving the caucus in this role."
Paulsen is a former Air Force officer who now works as an attorney for the Cedar Rapids trucking company CRST International. In his campaign for leader, Paulson promised a return to the Republican ideals of fiscal restraint and smaller government. Republican representative Linda Upmeyer of Garner says she agrees it’s time to get back to the basics.
"You know taxpayers and Iowans can expect us to be paying attention. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent growing government for the sake of government and just sort of (focus on) the core principals we’ve always valued and stay on message with those things," Upmeyer said. Rants was elected House Speaker in 2002 when the party held a 54 to 46 majority.
When Republcians lost control of the chamber in 2006, GOP members named Rants Minority leader. Mount Pleasant representative Dave Heaton says – despite Monday’s vote – Rants has been a talented leader. "That’s not to say that all the experience that Chris Rants has – and all the advice that he’s given can’t be appreciated in the future and I’m really hoping that he can play a role," Heaton said.
Despite losing more members, Heaton insists that Republicans are entering the legislative session "upbeat" and ready to work with Democrats to solve the state’s budget problems. Lawmakers are expected to face a shortfall of up to 600-million dollars.