CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa House Democrats on Saturday elected state Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City to lead the minority party in the 2019 Legislature.
Rep. Jo Oldson of Des Moines was elected Democratic whip. Reps. Wes Breckenridge of Newton, John Forbes of Urbandale, Brian Meyer of Des Moines and Sharon Steckman of Mason City were elected assistant minority leaders.
Democrats, who picked up five seats — and possibly a sixth in a race where the Democratic challenger has called for a recount — met in Des Moines to elect new leadership.
Minority Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown cited age, family responsibilities and the demands of recovery from a tornado that hit his district earlier this year as factors in deciding to step away from a leadership role.
Prichard, 44, was re-elected to a fourth term in a northeast Iowa district that includes parts of Floyd, Chickasaw and Cerro Gordo counties. Democrats cited his success as one of very few Democrats to win races in rural Iowa as a reason for electing him minority leader.
If the party is to regain the majority in 2020, it probably will require picking up seats in rural areas, party leaders said.
“We know that Iowans are tired of the divisive, partisan politics that defines our system today, but it should not be that way,” Prichard said. “We believe it’s time to put politics aside, listen to Iowans, and do what is best for people again.”
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Democrats have 10 new representatives: Karin Derry of Johnston, Molly Donahue and Tracy Ehlert of Cedar Rapids, Lindsay James of Dubuque, Kenan Judge of Waukee, Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights, Jeff Kurtz of Fort Madison, Heather Matson of Ankeny, Kristin Sunde of West Des Moines and Dave Williams of Cedar Falls.
“We made big gains in the Iowa House this year and, for the first time in Iowa history, women make up a majority of a caucus in the Iowa Legislature,” said Oldson, who will be serving her ninth term. “I’m excited to help lead House Democrats in 2019 and get the Legislature back to focusing on the basics like education and affordable health care for Iowans.”
Prichard, a Davenport native, enlisted in the Army Reserve while attending the University of Iowa. He later served Army and Iowa National Guard deployments in Kuwait, Iraq and Egypt. He is lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.
Prichard has his own law practice in Charles City and has also served as the assistant Floyd County attorney. He and his wife, Ann, a teacher, have three children.
Prichard joins Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, and Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Urbandale, in leading the House. The GOP will have a seven- or eight-seat majority.
Republicans President Jack Whitver of Ankeny and Sen. Charles Schneider of West Des Moines, and Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines will lead the Senate, Republicans there have a 32-18 majority.
The 2019 legislative session opens Jan. 14.
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