Legislature under the lens: More women, fewer minorities this year

By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — It’s slightly younger with a few more millennials and a lot more women.

Welcome, everyone, to Iowa’s 88th General Assembly.

The Iowa Legislature comprises 150 citizen lawmakers — 100 in the House and 50 in the Senate. In some ways, the makeup of the Iowa Legislature is dynamic: There are legislators as young as 21 years old and as old as 78.

But in other ways, the Iowa Legislature is far more homogenous: there are only four minority members out of 150.



Perhaps the biggest change to the Iowa Legislature’s demographics was its gender balance.

There are 45 women in the Iowa Legislature. That’s still just 30 percent, well below the goal of 50-50 in 2020, set by a bipartisan, nonprofit advocacy group that helps women run for office and aims for gender balance in state representation.

But it’s also a 36 percent increase over the 33 women who served in the Legislature in 2018.

The House is closer to gender balance: 34 percent of the chamber is female, compared to just 22 percent of the Senate.

Among those 45 women, 30 are Democrats and 15 are Republicans.

The House Democrats’ caucus has a female majority: Of the 46 Democrats in the House, 24 are women and 22 are men.

And though just five of the 32 Senate Republicans are women, that’s still a significant increase over the previous assembly, when just one Senate Republican was a woman.




The average age of all Iowa legislators is 54.8.

That’s down just slightly from the previous year average of 55.2

The youngest state lawmaker is Phil Thompson, a 21-year-old Republican House member from Jefferson.

The oldest is Julian Garrett, a 78-year-old Republican Senator from Indianola.

There are four state lawmakers in their 20s and nine in their 70s.

The number of Millennials serving in the Iowa Legislature increased a bit: There are now 23 Millennials, or roughly 15 percent of all legislators.

Baby Boomers still dominate the Iowa Legislature: there are 86 of them serving, more than half.

Generation X has 36 members, and there are five members combined from the Silent and Greatest generations.




There are 29 freshman legislators this year — those with no experience in the Iowa Legislature before this year.

Dennis Cohoon, a Democratic House member from Burlington, is the most-tenured legislator of the 88th General Assembly, with 32 years of experience. He was first elected in 1986.




Farmer remains the most prevalent profession among Iowa legislators. There are 32 farmers in the Legislature this year.

The next-largest bloc is retired legislators, of which there are 18.

There are 17 business owners, 14 attorneys and 10 educators.




Only four members of the Iowa Legislature are minorities.

That’s down one from the previous year, and represents just 2.7 percent of all state lawmakers.

Minorities make up roughly 15 percent of Iowa’s general population, according to census data.

The four minority members, all black, are each House Democrats: Ako Abdul-Samad and Ruth Ann Gaines of Des Moines, Phyllis Thede of Bettendorf and Ras Smith of Waterloo.



Odds and ends

The most common surname in the Iowa Legislature is Smith: there are four of them. (It’s also the most common surname in the U.S.)

There are also two each with the last name of Meyer, Shipley, Taylor and Zumbach.

The most common first name is David/Dave, of which there are five.