On Tuesday, Iowa state Rep. Andy McKean announced that he was leaving the Republican Party and joining the Democrats, and that he planned to seek re-election with Team Blue in 2020. McKean’s move leaves the GOP with a small 53 to 47 majority in the chamber.
McKean previously served as a Republican in the state House and Senate from 1979 until he retired in 2003, but he returned to the lower house in 2017. McKean, whom the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee noted was the longest serving Republican in the legislature until Tuesday, has long been a moderate, and he sided with Democrats in recent years on bills involving labor rights and gun safety.
However, McKean declared he was leaving the party because of Donald Trump. He said at his Tuesday press conference that he felt he had to be able to support his party’s presidential nominee, but that Trump was a “bully” whose “actions have coarsened political discourse, have resulted in unprecedented divisiveness, and have created an atmosphere that is a breeding ground for hateful rhetoric and actions.” McKean concluded, “Some would excuse this behavior as telling it like it is and the new normal. If this is the new normal, I want no part of it.”
McKean’s decision to run for re-election as a Democrat is unlikely to make his life easier. McKean’s seat, which is located near Dubuque in the eastern part of the state, swung from 56-43 Obama to 58-37 Trump. According to analyst Drew Savicki, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds carried the seat by a 15 percent margin during her re-election campaign last year, so it doesn’t look like this area will rapidly shift back to the left next year. McKean won re-election 69-31 during his final campaign as a Republican, but he’s likely in for a tougher contest next time.
McKean is the 11th sitting state legislator in the nation to change parties since the 2018 election, which we’re tracking here. Five other Republicans (three in Kansas, one each in California and New Jersey) joined the Democratic Party, while a pair of former Democrats in Oklahoma and Mississippi went to Team Red.
We also have a trio of legislators who gave up their party affiliation altogether. Over in Maine, Republican state Rep. Donald Marean became an independent, while Mississippi state Rep. Steve Holland left the Democrats, though Holland is still likely to caucus with his old party should he win re-election this year. Finally, in Alaska, state Rep. Bryce Edgmon dropped his Democratic party affiliation to become an independent as part of the very complex negotiations that led to Edgmon becoming speaker with the support of the Democratic caucus and some Republicans. You can find out more about each legislator’s seat at our party switcher tracker, which we’ll be updating throughout the cycle.
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