After year of partisanship, Iowa Republicans choose new leadership


Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer announced she plans to step down as Speaker at the end of 2019 and retire as a representative after her current term expires.

Alex Hanson

Less than two months after Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed deals made by the legislature, House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, has been chosen to serve as the new Speaker of the Iowa House, replacing retiring Rep. Kraig Paulson, R-Hiawatha, beginning in 2016.

Paulson announced his intention in early August to retire following the 2016 legislative session and step down as Speaker at the end of this year. 

“It is an honor to be selected as the next Speaker of the Iowa House and lead my caucus going into 2016,” Upmeyer said. “House Republicans are united and ready to return to Des Moines next January to continue crafting a budget that lives within our means and spends less than the state collects, just like Iowans do every day.”

As Speaker, Upmeyer will be in charge of presiding over sessions of the House, preserve order in the chamber during debate, refer bills and appoint members to committees and work with the leadership team to develop the calendar.

Branstad vetoed two pieces of legislation passed by the split legislature; the one-time education funding for K-12 schools and higher education, and a deal to keep two mental health facilities in the state open. 

“[With the dynamics of a Republican governor and Republican House, I don’t think the change in leadership at the speaker level will change anything in the short run,” said Mack Shelley, professor of political science. “I think they would tend to be pretty much on the same page.”

Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, was selected as the new House Majority Leader, replacing Upmeyer. 

“I am humbled to be chosen by House Republicans as their new Majority Leader,” Hagenow said. “I look forward to the 2016 session where House Republicans will continue to make Iowa a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family.”

House Republicans also chose other members of their leadership team Thursday.

  • Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, was selected as the new House Majority Whip
  • Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, was selected as a new Assistant Leader
  • Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, will continue to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore
  • Reps. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, Jarad Klein, R-Keota, and Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, will all continue their current roles as Assistant Leaders.

Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, had also announced his intentions to seek the Speaker position. He sent out a congratulatory tweet to Upmeyer shortly after the decision was made:

Besides the Speaker position, the leadership changes will take effect immediately. A new Speaker will be elected one the new legislative session convenes in January.

“We’ll have to see what this next election [in 2016] brings. If it turns out we have Republicans running both the House and Senate, that makes things a heck of a lot easier for a Republican governor,” Shelley said. 

Democrats in the House responded quickly to the new leadership roles, saying new Republican leaders past positions on education would bring “bad news” to students and schools in the state.

“At Rep. Upmeyer’s direction, House Republicans broke state law and ignored funding for public schools leaving kids in crowded classrooms with outdated textbooks and old technology this fall,” said state Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown. “Iowa kids deserve better.”

Upmeyer was first elected to the Legislature in 2002 and was chosen by Republicans as the first female Majority Leader in 2010. As the new Speaker beginning in 2016, Upmeyer will also be the first women to serve as Speaker in Iowa. Upmeyer’s dad, Del Stromer, served as House Speaker in the 1980’s.

// <![CDATA[ // ]]>