Governor Terry Branstad has withdrawn the nominations of two former state legislators to key positions in state government.
Branstad had asked former state Representative Nick Wagner — a Republican from Marion — to serve on the Iowa Utilities Board. The governor asked former state Senator Tom Rielly — a Democrat from Oskaloosa — to serve on the Iowa Transportation Commission. Democrats in the senate weren’t willing to support Wagner’s nomination. Some raised concerns about his support of a new nuclear power plant. Others said Wagner was hard to work with when he was a legislator.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix says it’s “disappointing” Wagner’s nomination to the utilities board has been withdrawn.
“Nick is a good guy and, given the opportunity, I think he’d do a great job,” Dix says.
Republicans had placed a hold on Rielly’s nomination to the Transportation Commission, preventing senators from taking a vote. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal notified Branstad about the situation, but Gronstal says it was the governor’s decision to withdraw both nominations.
“I neither recommended it or discouraged it,” Gronstal says, “and he’s made this choice.”
Rielly’s nomination got linked to the controversy surrounding two of Branstad’s nominees for the Board of Regents. It’s likely both Robert Cramer and current Board president Craig Lang will lose confirmation votes this week.
April 15 is the deadline for senators to vote on Branstad’s nominees for state boards and commissions. At least 34 senators must vote yes for a nominee to be confirmed.
Branstad could appoint the two former legislators to the Utilities Board and the Transportation Commission in May, let the two men serve ’til next year and have the senate take a vote on their nominations then. A nominee is ineligible to serve if they are voted down in the senate.
“It is clear that these two fine individuals were going to be collateral damage in the larger fight over the Regents nominees,” Tim Albrecth, a spokesman for Governor Branstad, said in a written statement. “The governor is withdrawing their names to preserve all of his options once session has ended. A decision has not been made with regard to who might fill these positions, and when.”
(This story was updated at 2:07 p.m. with additional information.)