On Monday, Iowa House Republicans made State Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, the Speaker-Elect of the Iowa House of Representatives one week after State Rep. Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, announced that she would step down as speaker nor run for re-election in 2020.
He does not officially become Speaker until the first day of the 2020 session when the full Iowa House will vote, but that is generally a unanimous vote with the minority party not putting forward a candidate.
I am not surprised by the 36-year-old legislator’s rise. I was somewhat surprised by this particular path. I assumed, wrongly, that State Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Urbandale, the outgoing majority leader, would be the next Speaker and that Grassley would run for higher office. He is after all pretty young and will be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, Speakers in Iowa history.
Hagenow, 47, ran for the leadership post, but in a contested election that was not unanimous (I’ve not been able to ascertain how close the election was) the House Republicans gave the younger Grassley the nod.
Scuttlebutt I’ve heard says that Senator Grassley advocated on behalf of his grandson, but it is unclear how much.
It’s also difficult not to speculate on the political calculus involved in Grassley seeking this post. I speculate that Grassley will run for U.S. Senate when his grandfather retires which I believe will be at the end of his current term when he will be 89-years-old (if not before).
Running as the Speaker of the Iowa House will help both with name recognition (and he already has a leg-up being a Grassley), with fundraising, and what I assume will be a glowing endorsement from the outgoing Senator in what will likely be a hotly contested primary.
Taking on this position also comes with risk. Legislative failures and controversy surrounding bills that pass out of the Iowa House could land on him. Also, there is concern among Republican insiders and members of the Republican caucus that Democrats could flip the Iowa House in 2020, especially if President Donald Trump does not do well at the top of the ticket.
So his tenure as Speaker could be cut short and the buck would stop with him for an electoral failure.
Lots can happen before 2022 so we’ll have to wait and see.