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Iowa Senate Democrats Elect Zach Wahls As New Minority Leader

Zach Wahls
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa Senate Democrats have elected Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, as the new Senate Minority Leader.

Democrats in the Iowa Senate have elected Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, to serve as the new Senate Minority Leader.

Wahls was first elected to the Senate in 2018 and is a vice president at GreenState Credit Union.

After this month’s elections, Republicans will continue with the same majority in the Iowa Senate, with 32 seats to the Democrats’ 18.

Wahls said Sunday that Iowa Democrats have some rebuilding to do. He said they need to clearly define what it means to be an Iowa Democrat.

“My message—whether it’s in rural Iowa or in Iowa City or Des Moines or anywhere else, is going to be very consistent, which is that the Democratic Party is here to make sure that we are supporting every Iowan, not just the wealthiest Iowans,” Wahls said.

Wahls replaces Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines.

Petersen was re-elected this month to a third term in the Iowa Senate. But she announced last week that she was stepping down from her role as Senate Minority Leader.

“It was an incredible experience serving as Iowa’s first female Iowa Senate Democratic leader,” Petersen said in a statement. “I am grateful to my caucus for electing me to the role and for asking me to continue on, but as C. Joy Bell once said, ‘Holding on to something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.’”

Wahls said Senate Democrats want to focus on improving the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s unlikely that the Republicans who control the Iowa Legislature will support the Democrats’ ideas.

Republicans recently selected Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, to continue as Senate Majority Leader and chose Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, to be the new Senate president.

On Saturday, Iowa House Democrats re-elected Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, as House Minority Leader. They also chose Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, as Minority Whip, replacing Rep. Jo Oldson, D-Des Moines.

Democrats believed they could flip control of the Iowa House in the 2020 elections, but they ended up losing seats. The previous 53-47 Republican majority is likely to stand at 59-41 after the results of some very close races are certified.

House Republicans re-elected Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, as House Speaker and Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, as House Majority Leader.

The next legislative session is scheduled to start Jan. 11.