Government

Rep. Ken Rizer won't seek re-election in Marion swing district

Race to replace the two-term Republican will set off scramble

CEDAR RAPIDS — Second-term Iowa House Rep. Ken Rizer has confirmed he won’t be seeking re-election this year.

The Marion Republican decision’s is likely to fuel a scramble for the competitive seat that has seesawed between Democratic and Republican representation.

“It will be a dogfight,” Rizer said about the coming race in House District 68 that includes eastern Marion as well as Bertram, Ely and Putnam.

Rizer, 53, has been considering his decision for months. After 35 years in public service, most of that in the Air Force, “I’m really at a point where I want to try other things.”

In addition to serving in the Legislature, he’s an assistant professor of aviation at the University of Dubuque.

“That pulls me out of the district more than I want to be,” Rizer said. “I’m not as accessible as I would prefer.”

A father of four, Rizer said he wants to spend more time with family and loved ones.

In the meantime, he promised to “finish strong, to run through the finish line.”

Rizer chairs the House State Government Committee and has been involved in a number of significant measures. Last year, he shepherded the controversial “voter integrity” bill that established a voter ID requirement to passage.

“I’m proud of that,” he said, adding he thinks that after the 2018 elections “people will accept it as a good thing — even the naysayers.”

Recent research in Public Opinion Quarterly found that overall support for voter ID laws is relatively high among Republicans, Democrats and independents regardless of the position their party took.

Rizer also worked on synthetic drug legislation, justice reform — an issue that started out small and grew with bipartisan support. He chaired the first standings budget review committee that recommended eliminating some state programs.

He wishes the Legislature was more bipartisan and as someone who spent most of his career in executive positions, Rizer wishes the pace was swifter.

In addition to being a fighter pilot, he held command positions, including overseeing a $252 million budget and responsibility for 60,000 military personnel and their families at Andrews Air Force Base, the home of Air Force One, the presidential plane.

“It was an adjustment to how laborious the process is,” he said about the Legislature. “But the laborious process is probably good for democracy. We should think deeply about what we’re doing and not crank out laws willy-nilly.”

The race to succeed Rizer likely will be a top-tier contest.

There is at least one Republican interested in running and there may be more, Rizer said.

Two Democrats, Scott Foens and Molly Donahue, are running for their party’s nomination. Foens, 53, is an Air Force veteran who has worked for the city of Cedar Rapids managing its land and asset management computer system. Donahue, 49, is a behavior disabilities teacher in the Cedar Rapids public schools. She ran against Rizer in 2016.

Democrats have a 504-vote registration advantage over Republicans in the district, 7,075 to 6,571, according to the Iowa Secretary of State. No party voters — 8,783 — are 39 percent of the House 68 electorate.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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