Republicans maintain control in state legislature: Analysis


In the new Iowa legislation, it is prohibited to teach that Iowa or the United States is systemically racist. 

Michael Craighton

Editor’s note: This story will be updated with new information and analysis as results become available.

Iowa Republicans have retained control of the Iowa Senate and expanded their majority in the Iowa House. Half of the Senate’s 50 seats were up for election in 2020, along with all 100 seats in the House.

Although results have not yet been officially certified, reported results show Republicans will keep their 32-18 majority in the Senate and expand their majority in the House by six seats to a margin of 59-41.

While Democrats expected to not gain control of the Senate in this election, the party did expect they would be able to regain a majority in the House, spending millions of dollars in various races. Republicans have held the governorship and both houses of the legislature since 2016.

“This means that we will see a couple more years of one-party control,” said Mack Shelley, chair of the political science department at Iowa State University. “Republicans will control both houses and the governor’s office until 2022, and maybe beyond that.”

Shelley said he suspects much of the party’s success can be attributed to the margin Trump won by, and that a so-called “red wave” inundated Democrat’s hopes to regain a majority in at least one house.

Holding both houses will pave the way for Iowa Republicans to pursue a more aggressive agenda, including limiting labor unions, restricting abortion access, easing gun control measures and cutting taxes, according to Shelley.

“Bottom line, we’ll see more of the same as we’ve seen for several years, but probably with a more intense approach,” Shelley said.

While the president does not have direct sway over actions and policies the state legislature pursues, the candidate who clinches the presidential race could influence the Republican agenda.

“If Trump is reelected, it could embolden Republicans all the more at the Iowa Statehouse level and even the governor,” Shelley said. “If Biden is elected, it doesn’t directly constrain what the Iowa Legislature and governor do, but it could make them look over their shoulder a little bit.”

A Democratic presidential administration would likely impose stronger regulations on business activity, stricter actions on gun control and restrictions on what states can do to restrict access to abortion. All of these would make it more difficult for Iowa’s Legislature to pursue a traditional Republican agenda, Shelley said.

Republicans retained their majority as the state of Iowa reported 61 counties with a 15 percent or greater COVID-19 positivity rate, the threshold Gov. Kim Reynolds set for schools to move online. Shelley did not expect to see a change in the state’s response to the pandemic however.

“Coronavirus has started to spread into the [rural] Republican heartland,” Shelley said. “Of course, a large part of their agenda is no mask mandate, keeping businesses open…that translates to greater risk of infection and a ratcheting up of health care costs.”

The 89th Iowa General Assembly begins its 2021 legislative session Jan. 11.