Sources indicate a Democrat in the state senate intends to resign, because Republican Governor Terry Branstad will soon appoint her to serve on the Iowa Utilities Board.
Swati Dandekar, a Democrat from Marion, was first elected to the Iowa House in 2002 and won a four-year term in the Iowa Senate in 2008. Dandekar’s expected exit from the state senate this fall sets up the possibility Republicans could win her seat in a special election.
The district has slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats and whoever wins the special election would serve the remaining year of Dandekar’s term.
Democrats currently hold a 26 to 24 seat advantage in the senate and a Republican win in Dandekar’s district would knot up the senate at 25-Republicans and 25 Democrats. A tied senate wouldn’t be a first, however. The senate was tied for two years, for the 2005 and 2006 legislative sessions. The two parties struck an agreement in which the parties shared daily control, so only subjects on which both parties agreed could be debated.
It’s unclear how social issues which stalled in the Democratically-controlled Iowa Senate this past year would emerge if the Iowa Senate wins up in a 25/25 split. During the 2010 session, for example, Republicans in the Iowa House approved having a statewide election on the gay marriage issue, but the Democratic Majority Leader in the Iowa Senate has blocked it.
Dandekar would become one of three members of the Iowa Utilities Board, the state regulators who oversee the businesses and city-owned utilities that provide electricity, water, natural gas and communications services in Iowa. Dandekar has been chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and during the 2011 legislative session she led efforts in the senate to pass a bill giving MidAmerican Energy the go-ahead to plan the financing for a new, nuclear-powered plant in Iowa.