House Speaker Craig Paulsen in a July meeting with reporters.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen in a July meeting with reporters.

The top-ranking Republican in the Iowa legislature does not plan to seek reelection in 2016 — and he’s leaving his leadership post in January.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha will serve out the remaining 16 months of his term, but will turn over leadership of the House to another Republican in January. That means someone else will serve as House speaker during the 2016 legislative session.

Paulsen was first elected to the Iowa House in 2002. He rose to become a leader of House Republicans in 2008. When Republicans took majority control of the House in 2010, Paulsen was elevated to House Speaker. No word yet on what’s next for Paulsen, who is 50 years old. Paulsen considered running for congress in 2014, but decided to remain in the state legislature.

Paulsen announced his legislative retirement via email this morning. He will speak with reporters early this afternoon.

Paulsen’s departure sets up a competition to become House speaker. Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake is currently House Majority Leader, the second-ranking Republican in the Iowa House. If Upmeyer is elected by her Republican colleagues as House Speaker, she would be the first woman to win that job.

A series of statements were released by some of the state’s political leaders in response to Paulsen’s announcement.

(DES MOINES) – Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today released the following statements praising former Iowa Speaker of the House Rep. Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) upon learning of his decision to step down from his leadership post in the Iowa House of Representatives. Paulsen is one of the longest-serving Republican leaders in Iowa House of Representative history.

“Representative Kraig Paulsen has been one of the most effective legislative leaders I have had the privilege of working with at the state capitol. Even before he was Speaker, Representative Paulsen worked across party lines in the minority to prevent the passage of ill-advised, job-killing legislation. With the partnership of Iowa House Republicans under his tenure as Speaker, we balanced the state’s budget, restored financial stability in state government, passed the largest tax cut in the state’s history and passed student-focused education policies to raise pupil achievement, among many other things,” said Branstad. “As one of the longest-serving House Republican leaders in state history, I can understand Representative Paulsen’s decision. I’ve appreciated his friendship, leadership, and his partnership as we’ve work to build Iowa for the future.”

“As a former legislator who served during the period of reckless budgeting and across-the-board budget cuts, I’ve valued the commitment of Representative Paulsen to ensure government lives within its means just as the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa do each day,” said Reynolds. “Together with Iowa House Republicans, we’ve worked to make state government more effective, efficient and innovative. We’ll miss Representative Paulsen’s leadership during the legislative session, but we’re confident he’ll continue to honorably represent his constituents and work to protect the interest of the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa.”

CLEVELAND – Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, who is in Cleveland for the RNC’s Summer Meeting, released the following statement on Speaker Kraig Paulsen’s decision to step down from his leadership post and not seek reelection:

“During my time in the state legislature and after I’ve been lucky enough to call Kraig Paulsen a friend. Speaker Paulsen is one of the most honorable men I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and a man of unquestioned integrity. Under his leadership we’ve maintained control of the House, passed some of the most far-reaching tax breaks in state history, and bolstered Iowa’s sterling reputation as a place to live and do business. His leadership will be sorely missed at the Capitol, but like all good leaders, I’m confident Speaker Paulsen is leaving the House in good hands.”

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) today thanked Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) for his service to Iowans. Upmeyer’s recognition comes following Speaker Paulsen’s announcement earlier today.

“The Iowa House of Representatives and the state of Iowa have benefitted greatly from the leadership of Speaker Paulsen over the last five years. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Kraig since we were both elected in 2002,” said Upmeyer. “The state is in a stronger position because of his efforts and I wish he and his family the best in their future endeavors.”

Upmeyer confirmed that she would seek the support of her caucus to become the first woman to serve as the Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.

“I love this caucus, I have fought for it and I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I would be honored to continue to work on their behalf as Speaker towards our shared goal of making Iowa a better place to grow a business and raise a family,” said Upmeyer.

Upmeyer indicated a caucus and election would be scheduled in the near future. House Republicans traditionally hold a caucus in the late summer to discuss priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

Statement by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) on House Speaker Kraig Paulsen’s retirement announcement 

“I have always had a deep respect for Kraig Paulsen.

“He has always treated me decently and fairly. While we have had our partisan differences, we have done our level best to work those out with each other.

“I wish him well wherever his future takes him.”

SHELL ROCK – Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, Wednesday thanked Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen for his dedication and service to the state of Iowa during his tenure as a state representative and as a House leader.
“Speaker Paulsen has been a great leader for the House Republican caucus and our state. He has been a champion for responsible budgeting practices, easing the burdens on the Iowa taxpayer and promoting policies that strengthen and grow Iowa’s economy. It has been an honor to work side-by side with the Speaker as the Senate Republican leader and during my tenure in the Iowa House.”

(This post was updated at 5 p.m. with the statement from Dix.