Republicans keep Iowa House majority, grip on state government

The ornamental decorations of the Iowa Capitol dome are seen from outside in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (And
The ornamental decorations of the Iowa Capitol dome are seen from outside in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Republicans will retain unfettered control of the writing of Iowa’s state laws for at least two more years.

Democrats had hoped to win enough races to change the balance of power in the Iowa House of Representatives during Tuesday’s elections. Instead, not only did Republicans protect their advantage, they expanded it.

That means Republicans will continue to own full control of the state lawmaking process. For the past four years, Republicans have held majorities in both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, and held the governor’s office.

Democrats will have to try again in 2022 to win back the House majority or defeat Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in order to earn a seat at the state lawmaking table.

Republicans went into Tuesday’s elections with a 53-47 advantage in the Iowa House. Democrats targeted roughly a dozen Republican-held seats, but flipped only one and lost seven of their own.

Republicans emerged from Tuesday’s elections with a 59-41 advantage, undoing gains made by Democrats two years ago.

“Tonight’s election results demonstrate that Iowans strongly support the direction of our state under Republican leadership. Voters know that they can trust House Republicans to handle their taxpayer dollars responsibly, jumpstart our economy, and return to normalcy as quickly as possible,” Republican Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said in a statement. “House Republicans are ready to get to work alongside Gov. Reynolds and the Senate to make Iowa an even better place to raise a family and grow a business.”

Republicans said during the campaign that they felt good about their incumbents and also believed they had their own opportunities to flip Democrat-held seats.

Democrats flipped only one seat: in the Cedar Rapids suburbs, where Democrat Eric Gjerde defeated Republican Sally Ann Abbott in an open-seat race that was formerly held by Republican Ashley Hinson, who won a Congressional race Tuesday night.

Meantime, Republicans flipped seven Democrat-held seats: in the Polk County suburbs, Eddie Andrews defeated incumbent Karin Derry, and Garrett Goble defeated incumbent Heather Matson; Brooke Boden defeated incumbent Scott Ourth in Warren County; Cherielynn Westrich defeated incumbent Mary Gaskill in Wapello County; Martin Graber defeated incumbent Jeff Kurtz in Lee County; and Chad Ingels defeated Jodi Grover in an open-seat Fayette County seat that Democrats had held.

And Steven Bradley defeated incumbent Andy McKean, a former Republican who switched parties to become a Democrat in 2019, in Jackson County.

The Iowa Senate also will remain under Republican control after Tuesday’s elections. The majority there was never really in doubt, since Republicans went into the election with a 32-18 advantage.

“That is a mandate,” Jack Whitver, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Ankeny, said in post-election remarks. “That is a mandate for what we’re doing here in the state of Iowa.”

Republicans have held the Iowa House majority since 2011, when they also won back the governor’s office with Terry Branstad’s return. The Iowa GOP completed the trifecta in 2016 by winning a majority in the Iowa Senate, and held that trifecta through the 2018 elections with Reynolds’ election and House Republicans barely holding onto their majority.

Republicans in the Iowa House held a 59-41 advantage going into the 2018 elections. Democrats flipped a net six seats in those elections, giving them hope they could flip a net four more this year and regain the majority. Instead, Republicans’ big night put their majority back to 59-41.


During four years with the trifecta, Iowa statehouse Republicans have enacted myriad conservative changes to state law that would not have happened had Democrats been pulling any of the levers. Republicans dramatically reduced the benefits for which public employee unions could bargain, limited damages workers can seek in lawsuits, loosened restrictions on gun ownership, eliminated public funding for women’s health care providers that offer abortion services, and approved other abortion restrictions, some of which were struck down by the courts.

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