News Center

November 11th, 2011

New Leadership Needs to Unite Republican Caucus In State Senate

For the fourth time since the spring of 2006, Republicans in the State Senate have selected a new leader to guide the Republican caucus in the chamber.  State Senator Jerry Behn was elected by his peers to replace Senator Paul McKinley, who stepped down and announced he would not be seeking re-election next fall.

Republicans also elected a new minority whip.  Senator Brad Zaun was selected to replace Senator Steve Kettering, who, like McKinley, stepped down and is also not seeking re-election in 2012.

The first item of business for the new leadership team is uniting a caucus that has been divided, especially recently.  The newer members of the Republican Senate caucus have made it no secret over the past two years that they were no fan of McKinley’s, and Behn wasn’t their pick to succeed him either.  Instead, they backed Bill Dix, who came up short once again.

While Dix may have the fundraising prowess that a legislative leader needs to be successful at winning elections, he was severely damaged recently when he openly challenged McKinley only to withdraw his bid when it became clear that he didn’t have the votes to win.  It also didn’t help that public opinion was against him for challenging McKinley while McKinley was out of the county.  There were already a lot of hard feelings that needed to be soothed in the Senate.  Had Dix won the leadership election, the Senate may have been even more divided than it is today with Behn at the helm.

Moving forward, Behn probably has the best chance at uniting the caucus.  While he was not known to be a vocal leader within the caucus, Behn has been in the State Senate for 15 years, which means that he should know how the chamber works inside and out.  What he will need to work on is developing relationships statewide that will help him raise the funds necessary to compete in the 2012 elections and identify future candidates.

Hailing from a major metropolitan area and having just run for Congress, Brad Zaun has developed relationships that should be beneficial in raising money for the Republican cause in the senate.  Zaun’s infectious personality and his work ethic when it comes to grassroots campaigning are just a few of his strengths that should be utilized in getting first time candidates up to speed.

The members of the new leadership team will have their work cut out for themselves in 2012.  With just a year to go until Election Day, it is critical that they begin to raise the massive amounts of money it will take to win control of the chamber.  As we saw in the Senate District 18 race, these campaigns, especially those in metropolitan areas, require a lot of money to be successful.  At a minimum, the fundraising target needs to be $1.5 million, a hefty haul for two individuals who have not built strong ties to Republican donors in the state.

Once again, Senate Republicans are starting over, and it’s not clear that the internal bickering between the two factions of the Senate caucus is about to cease.  Hopefully, Behn and Zaun will get them to focus on the task at hand – winning a Republican majority.

Congratulations, gentlemen.  And good luck.


Photo by Dave Davidson,

Enhanced by Zemanta

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

blog comments powered by Disqus