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Longest-Serving Republican Lawmaker At Iowa Capitol Joins Democrats

andy mckean
Katarina Sostaric
Rep. Andy McKean of Anamosa tells reporters he is switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

The longest-serving Republican in the Iowa Legislature announced Tuesday he is switching to the Democratic Party, citing increasing discomfort with Republicans’ stance on many high-profile issues and his unwillingness to support President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Rep. Andy McKean of Anamosa said the Statehouse is much more partisan than when he was first elected in 1978. And he said the Republican Party has changed. 

“I think the party has veered very sharply to the right,” McKean said. “And that concerns me. It’s a bit further than I would care to be.”

This narrows the party split in the Iowa House of Representatives to 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats.

McKean said this was a gradual decision, and there wasn’t a single event that convinced him to make the switch. He said he considers himself a political moderate, and he thinks there is room for him in the Democratic Party.

House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, said the House Democrats are welcoming McKean because he shares their goal of “moving the state forward.”

“He brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the role,” Prichard said. “And to have him on the team with the Democratic caucus is really a big thrill for us.”

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said in a statement she respects McKean’s decision.

“This will not distract us from moving forward with the conservative agenda that Iowans have tasked us with,” Upmeyer said.

McKean said he also doesn’t like what he’s seeing at the national level.

“With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party,” McKean said. “Unfortunately that is something I’m unable to do.”

He said he believes the country will “soon pay a heavy price” for Trump’s policies and rhetoric.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement McKean has deceived his constituents.

“When Rep. McKean ran in 2016, he had no problem riding to victory on President Trump’s coattails,” Kaufmann said. “He’s about to feel the headwind of Trump’s support in District 58.”

McKean said he will most likely run for re-election as a Democrat in 2020.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter