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byrnes-running-bill
State Representative Josh Byrnes (R-Osage)
Photo source: Iowa House Republicans

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) has some competition for the speaker’s gavel. On Wednesday last week Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) announced he was not running for re-election after this current term and resigning as Speaker in January. Upmeyer announced she was pursuing the seat the same day.

Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) told Caffeinated Thoughts that he did not intend to run and said the best way for him to serve Iowans and his caucus was to stay in his current position. “The leadership transition will require a degree of continuity and I believe one of the ways to accomplish that is by remaining in my current elected leadership position,” he said.

Friday last week, State Representative Josh Byrnes (R-Osage) said he decided to pursue the seat.  On his Facebook timeline he announced:

After much thought and discussion with my family we feel that it’s in the best interest of Iowans to pursue the Speakers Chair of the Iowa House. The majority of Iowans want bipartisanship and legislators working together. We have been drifting towards a more D.C. version of politics in Iowa and that is not the direction Iowans want to go. I have a track record of doing what’s right on behalf of Iowans and I am known for working with ALL legislators regardless of party. This is a vote within my caucus and I have to convince them I am the person for the job.

No one else has put their name forward as of yet.

I find it unlikely that Byrnes would beat Upmeyer for four primary reasons.

  1. Upmeyer’s election as Speaker would make her the first female Speaker in Iowa history.  Republicans would like to make that history.  Typically Republicans don’t engage in identity politics, but since Upmeyer has already been the Majority Leader it makes sense (this is not an endorsement by the way) that the caucus would vote to make her Speaker.
  2. He supports Common Core, while Upmeyer has not done anything to push a vote on the issue, Byrnes has been openly supportive of it. While for some Representatives that won’t matter, but I would also suspect a great number of that group would also support Upmeyer.
  3. He was the gas tax increase champion in the House.  Yes, Upmeyer voted for it as well, but he was the poster child for it.  This doesn’t leave a good choice for those who opposed the gas tax unless they were to put forward their own candidate for the gavel (which frankly they should).  I have suggested that State Representative Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) should run.  In a three-way race I could definitely see Hagenow winning the gavel.  He hasn’t expressed any interest in running, but he is well-respected in the caucus, and someone I can definitely see in the Speaker’s chair.  Consider that an endorsement should he decide  to run.  He is a quality candidate not only because of his conservative credentials, but he’s a unifying figure in the Republican caucus and I believe he could get the job done.
  4. Byrnes was one of the chief Republican supporters of the anti-bullying bill, who told an Ankeny parent that there was “nothing worse” than homeschoolers weighing in on bills like these.  Considering Paulsen is a homeschooling parent this is not the direction the Republican caucus would want to go. The optics would look very, very bad.

I suspect it will be Upmeyer gaveling in the new legislative session this January if Byrnes is the only one who competes against her for the seat.

Update: Hagenow just announced he is running for Majority Leader.  I did hear State Representative Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) may run for Speaker, but it looks like Upmeyer has the votes she needs (see reason #1).  Here is a tweet Hagenow sent out.

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