Republican senators say they were shocked by the abrupt resignation of the top Republican in the Iowa Senate.
Senate GOP Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock, who is married, resigned at 2 p.m. this afternoon, just hours after images posted on the Iowa Starting Line website showed Dix and a female lobbyist in a Des Moines bar, appearing to kiss.
“Of course, we’re all disappointed,” Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said this afternoon. “My prayers go out to Senator Dix and his family, because I know it’s going to be a tough time for them.”
Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, told reporters he and his colleagues were surprised.
“I’m shocked…Everybody is,” Schneider said. “…There was anger as well.”
Schneider and the other Senate Republicans went into a private meeting early Monday afternoon with Dix where Dix told his peers he was resigning.
“It was somber. It was sad, but at the end of the day we all realize that we have a job to do,” Schneider said. “That’s why our constituents elected us into office and we’re going to focus on that job.”
Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen said she wasn’t surprised by Dix’s apparent relationship with a lobbyist.
“It is an issue of power and how one chooses to use it,” Petersen told reporters this afternoon.
And Petersen connected this episode with Dix’s decision to fire a GOP staffer who complained she was being sexually harassed in the senate, although she did not name Dix one of her antagonists. Kirsten Anderson won a jury trial last year and eventually state officials agreed to pay Anderson a $1.75 million settlement.
Petersen said it’s time for Republicans to make it clear “shenanigans” in the statehouse are inappropriate.
“Hopefully Republicans will step up and get some leadership decisions made quickly and go back and address the situation that Senate Republicans have yet to deal with,” Petersen said. “…It’s time for them to take this issue seriously, like legislatures are around the country are dealing with this.”
Senate Republicans plan to meet Wednesday in private to elect a new leader. Senator Schneider said despite the leadership upheaval, senate committees will meet and the senate will debate, when necessary this week.
“We have work to do and we’re going to get that work done,” Schneider told reporters this afternoon.
Dix, who is a pumpkin farmer, served a decade in the Iowa House. After an unsuccessful 2006 campaign for a seat in the U.S. House, Dix won a seat in the Iowa Senate in 2010. He was expected to seek re-election this year.
(Photos by Iowa Public Radio’s John Pemble)