It appears a Republican state senator from northeastern Iowa may try to force a leadership election this week, but it’s unclear what will happen on Thursday.
Senator Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, has sent an email to the other 23 Republicans in the Iowa Senate, making it clear he wants the job of Senate Republican leader. The email indicates Dix wants Senate Republicans to meet to talk about the upcoming special election in the Marion area to fill an open senate seat.
Senator William Anderson, a Republican from Pierson, says he’ll be there Thursday.
“It is important that we have the discussion about the upcoming election prior to the election,” Anderson says.
The special election for that open senate seat in the Marion area is set for Tuesday, November 8th. Last week, Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley set November 10th as the next official meeting time for Senate Republicans. Anderson says the Republican senators need to meet now, to help plot campaign strategy for the special election and set fundraising goals.
“I have a family, a small business. I have a full-time job. If we’re going to go over and help in that special election, I need to be able to plan and I need to know what expectations are,” Anderson says. “…I think the number one reason for this caucus is so we can address this special election. I do think it show a certain amount of vision to have that prior to the election rather than two days after.”
Statehouse politicians use the word “caucus” to describe their private partisan meetings. Radio Iowa has telephoned more than a dozen Republican senators and of the four who spoke on the record, two do not plan to attend Thursday’s meeting. Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheydan, has an appointment he can’t miss.
“I’m having (lower back) surgery Thursday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,” Johnson said. “I’m not available.”
Senator Jerry Behn, a Republican from Boone, will be in the field, harvesting soybeans on Thursday.
“Anybody can have a meeting whenever they want,” Behn says. “But the official caucus is November 10th.”
Senator Johnson says he’s fine with the November 10 date.
“I think that’s the most appropriate time,” Johnson said.
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, plans to attend Thursday’s meeting and he doesn’t yet know who he would support as the Senate’s Republican leader.
“I believe that whoever articulates the best message and has the best management team is what I would like to see us pursue,” Chelgren said. “When I invest in companies, I invest based on the management team and the business plan and, up to this point, I have not seen any plan from anybody.”
Senator Sandy Greiner, a Republican from Keota, says she’ll be there Thursday, because the current state senators need to get “fully engaged” in the special election.
“I have to say I was stunned that our leader called our Caucus (meeting) for after that election which, in other words, prevents us from getting our colleagues toether to divie up our responsibilities,” Greiner says.
Greiner has drawn up a list fundraising goals that she hopes her Senate Republican colleagues will embrace during Thursday’s meeting.
“I will be very disappointed if I don’t have colleagues there to distribute them to,” Greiner says. “We need to get this done…All of the senators have run senate campaigns and that’s why their involvement is crucial.”
Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed a Democrat who held that state senate seat in Marion to the Iowa Utilities Board, setting the stage for a crucial special election as a Republican win in the district would knot the Senate up at 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans.
Paul McKinley, the current Senate Republican leader, is not available for interviews about his future in leadership. McKinley’s in Italy, vacationing with his wife to celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary. Dix has not responded to a phone message seeking comment. Dix would need to have the support of at least 13 Republican senators to wrest the job of Senate Minority Leader away from McKinley and several sources indicate Thursday’s gathering would not be considered an “official” Senate GOP meeting so a leadership election could not be held.
(This story was updated at 4:36 p.m., adding Senator Chelgren’s comments, and updated again at 5:29 p.m., adding Senator Greiner’s comments.)