Zach Wahls

After disappointing statewide election results for their party, Democrats in the Iowa Senate have chosen a new leader, but Democrats in the House are keeping theirs.

Zach Wahls of Coralville is the new minority leader for the 18 Democrats in the Iowa Senate. He told reporters late this afternoon that it’s clear his party has some rebuilding to do in order to win tough races.

“One of the the things that’s ahead of us is really clearly defining what it means to be an Iowa Democrat…There may be some folks who look at what happened here in Iowa and say, you know, the problem is the Democrats are spending too much time talking about, you know, this issue or that issue…The reality is the Democratic Party has always stood — probably since the New Deal — for civil rights and workers rights,” Wahls said. “…The work ahead of us is to clearly define that brand.”

Wahls, who is 29, was elected to the state senate in 2018 and comes from Johnson County, an urban county dominated by Democrats. His district includes rural areas, however — including the home of the Iowa Republican Party’s chairman. Wahls said voters in rural areas of his district “want to see change” and are frustrated when they see economic growth elsewhere, but not in rural Iowa.

“My message whether it’s in rural Iowa or in Iowa City or Des Moines or anywhere else is going to be very consistent,” Wahls said, “which is that the Democratic Party is here to make sure that we are supporting every Iowan, not just the wealthiest Iowans.”

Todd Prichard of Charles City, the leader of House Democrats for the past two years, was re-elected this weekend as the group’s leader.

“We need to learn from this election. We need to find ways to expand our reach to voters and find ways to bring people into the Democratic Party,” Prichard said. “But I don’t think that, you know, the conclusion was…everything that happened in this last election is…in our immediate control.”

Democrats were aiming to win more seats and majority control in the Iowa House, but Republicans expanded their majority to 59 of the 100 seats in the House. Prichard said good Democratic candidates just got swept aside in a Republican wave election.

“Unfortunately they weren’t successful in a way that we wanted to be successful,” Prichard told reporters. “…I’m proud of them for fighting the good fight.”

Senate and House Republicans met last week and kept their top leaders.

The 2021 Iowa legislative session is scheduled to begin January 11.