CEDAR RAPIDS — Despite losing six seats in an election when they were expected to make gains, perhaps, even win control of the Iowa House, Democrats re-elected Minority Leader Todd Prichard for the 2021 legislative session.
“It’s a long game,” second-term Rep. Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights explained Saturday after a virtual caucus of the 41 House Democrats. She will join Prichard in leadership as the Democratic whip. “We’d have liked it to be a little shorter.”
Republicans increased their numbers in the House from 53 to 59 and maintained a 32-18 majority in the Senate. With GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds, Republicans will continue their trifecta control of the Statehouse for another two years.
Democrats ran good candidates and campaigns, “but we came up short,” Prichard said.
“I am really proud of the effort that House Democratic candidates have waged in the campaigns that they ran,” he said. “I think we had people who ran for a lot of the right reasons — because they care about their community, they care about their friends and their neighbors.”
However, factors beyond their control and the control of the party may have overwhelmed that passion and those ideas, he suggested. President Donald Trump, who carried the state 53 percent to 45 percent, had an “upward effect” on the election outcome in Iowa, Prichard said in an earlier interview.
So although he’s disappointed in the outcome, “we’re not disheartened ... we’re not giving up.”
“We know that a lot of Iowans are depending on us to be their advocate,” Prichard said. “That’s why we’re here fighting.”
Speaking from personal experience, Konfrst said sometimes candidates have to run more than once to get elected. As an example, she pointed to Eric Gjerde of Cedar Rapids, who lost to an incumbent two years ago, but won an open-seat race earlier this month.
“We’re not done with these folks,” she said about unsuccessful candidates.
Democrats will be pushing the GOP majority to take action on the coronavirus pandemic, Prichard said. Numbers have been rising with more than 180,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 2,000 deaths.
“We know that until we are able to get control of the pandemic and people are safe again, and feel safe, that life really won’t really go back to normal and the economy of Iowa will not move forward like it should,” said Prichard, a Charles City attorney. “So we’re really focused on recovery and getting through the pandemic.”
Konfrst called on Reynolds to adopt the White House COVID-19 task force guidelines as “a bare minimum.” There’s also a need for more testing and more and better data on COVID-19 in Iowa, she said.
“So there are policy implications and things that we’re going to be working on,” she said. “But meanwhile, we don’t have time to wait. We obviously have a tough winter ahead and getting the right information is going to be key for how we can really get this under control.”
House Democrats also elected four assistant minority leaders for the 2021 session: Reps. Brian Meyer of Des Moines, Lindsay James of Dubuque, Charlie McConkey of Council Bluffs, and Gjerde. He is one of four new members joining House Democrats. The others are Sue Cahill of Marshalltown, Christina Bohannan of Iowa City, and Steve Hansen of Sioux City, who previously served in the Legislature.
The 2021 session is scheduled to open Jan. 11. For more information, visit www.legis.iowa.gov.
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