CEDAR RAPIDS — A northeast Iowa lawmaker is emerging as a consensus choice of House Democrats to lead the minority party in the 2019 legislative session.
Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City is expected to be elected minority leader when the House Democratic caucus meets Saturday in Des Moines.
“Todd is a good, unifying voice in our caucus and he’ll be able to work on our plans to take back the majority,” said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City.
Others were considering the leadership post, but by Wednesday they were throwing their support to Prichard, 44, who was first elected in a January 2013 special election.
Serving as minority leader won’t be his first brush with combat for the Davenport native who participated in Army ROTC while attending the University of Iowa and now practices law in Charles City. He commanded a 32-man rifle team along the Iraq-Kuwait border in 2000 and was deployed two more times as a member of the 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry of the Iowa Army National Guard. He’s now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.
That military experience will serve him well “in terms of leadership, ability to organize and delegate,” Mascher predicted.
Having a rural Iowa Democrat lead the caucus will be helpful in winning the House majority, lawmakers said. Although House Democrats narrowed Republicans’ 59-41 margin by winning seats in and around Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Prichard is one of very few rural Democrats in the caucus.
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“We need more focus on rural outreach as a caucus,” said Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty.
Mascher agreed that Democrats “need to figure out how to engage our rural Iowans, how to talk about their issues during the session and on the campaign trail.
“We’ve got to make more effort to engage rural Iowans, to grow their economy, their schools, their towns,” she said.
In that sense, Prichard said, he’s well-suited for the job.
“If we’re going to pick up seats it will be in rural areas, small towns,” he said. Winning elections in rural Iowa “is something I know a little about.”
Although they will be in the minority for a ninth consecutive year, Prichard said Democrats “speak for a significant part of the population and have a responsibility to keep the majority accountable.”
Democrats’ focus should be on “building an economy that works for everyone,” according to Prichard, who briefly ran for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in the most recent election.
“We have an economy that is rebuilding — there are a lot of jobs, but some Iowans are being left behind,” he said.
Republicans haven’t acknowledged the crises in Medicaid and mental health, Prichard said. He’s also doubtful GOP tax cuts will benefit the state, and more needs to be done to improve water quality, he said.
Democrats “have a better vision for a better Iowa,” he said.
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