Marshalltown Democrat Smith plans to be Iowa House majority leader in 2019

Alabama vote 'a demonstration that common sense rules the day'

House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown and Rep. Marti Anderson of Des Moines discussed their party’s  legislative agenda in this 2014 file photo. (Gazette file)
House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown and Rep. Marti Anderson of Des Moines discussed their party’s legislative agenda in this 2014 file photo. (Gazette file)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A long shot win by an Alabama Democrat is good news for the nation and Iowa Democrats hoping to flip control of the Iowa House in 2018, according to a legislative leader.

“I think this is good news for our country,” House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said Wednesday about Doug Jones’ victory over Alabama Republican Roy Moore. It was the first time since 1992 that Alabamians have elected a Democrat to the senate — and that senator, Richard Shelby, became a Republican after going to Washington. “I think it’s a demonstration that common sense rules the day.”

Smith is predicting similar outcomes in Iowa House races next year.

“We’ll go into this election with the intention of taking the majority,” Smith said, adding that picking up 10 seats needed to become majority leader in 2019 has been done in one election cycle in the past.

Democrats had a trifecta — control the governor’s office, the House and Senate starting in 2007. In 2010, control of the House flipped from 56-44 in favor of Democrats to a 60-40 Republican majority.

The GOP has a 59-41 advantage in the House. One GOP member is expected to resign because he has been elected to the state Senate.

Miller’s optimism stems from Democratic wins in Iowa special elections as well as others around the country. Win or lose, he added, Democrats have “overperformed.”

“We had a great win in Fairfield in a district that Donald Trump won with 58 percent of the vote and (Democrat) Phil Miller won with 54 percent of the vote,” he said. That election to fill a vacancy created by the death of Democratic Rep. Curt Hanson. In 2014, the last time he had a challenger, Hanson won 52 percent to 48 percent.

Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Carlos Cruz was not as impressed.


“After years of losing elections under Mark Smith’s leadership, I can appreciate that Democrats don’t know how to react to winning a Fairfield House seat that’s been held by a Democrat since 1996,” Cruz said.

Tuesday, a Democrat running in a special election in Plymouth and Woodbury counties, lost 54 percent to 46 percent despite Republicans having about twice as many registered voters in the northwest Iowa district.

Similarly, Democrats have held seats in special elections in the Quad Cities.

Smith chalks that up to hard work.

“We knocked the doors. We pounded the pavement. We conveyed the message of being pragmatic and solving Iowa’s problems,” he said. “That’s what we will do across the state in 2018.”

It’s not that simple, according to the GOP’s Cruz.

“Iowa’s always been a purple state,” he said. “Our success at the ballot box has always been reflection that Republicans have been better at recruiting good candidates with a vision for a better Iowa.”

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



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