State Senator Joe Seng of Davenport passed away today, several sources confirmed to Starting Line this evening. He was 70 years old. Seng was diagnosed with brain cancer in September of 2014, but fought through it and returned to the Senate the follow session, only taking a few days away from the Legislature in 2015 and 2016 for treatment. His health reportedly worsened recently and he was placed in hospice care.
Seng, a Democrat and a veterinarian, was first elected to the State House in 2000, before being elected to the State Senate in 2002. He was reelected most recently in 2014 and was not on the ballot this year. He was particularly beloved by his senate colleagues, and sometimes entertained them with his accordion and piano skills.
There will be time later to look closer into what happens with his heavily-Democratic senate seat in Scott County, but a special election will have to be called by the governor to be held after the November election. If an incumbent legislator dies 88 days before an election, a special election must be called after it. It is likely this will happen in December or January. When State Senator Pat Ward passed away in mid-October of 2012, a special election for that seat was held that December.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal put out the following statement:
“When physicians determined in September 2014 that Senator Joe Seng needed surgery and follow-up treatment for a brain tumor, Joe declared that he would be back for the first day of the 2015 legislative session. All of us who served with him the Legislature – as well as many of his constituents – knew that Joe would keep his promise because he was tough as nails.
“Joe Seng lived his Catholic faith through his words and his actions. That included running a veterinary practice that served families from all walks of life, operating restaurants and other businesses, and helping a variety of agencies and charities that served low-income families.
“He was a friend, a colleague and a good person.”
Senate President Pam Jochum put out this statement:
“It was an honor to serve with Joe Seng in the House and Senate. He was a solid legislator. He’s going to be missed by all of us.
“Joe served the people of Scott County with all his heart and soul for many years. He cared deeply about the families and neighborhoods in his district. He showed that love at his veterinary practice, where he made many friends for life and touched the hearts of thousands of families.
“Finally, we all owe a debt of gratitude to his wife Mary, who was by his side every step of this journey. She will always be a member of the Iowa Senate family.”
by Pat Rynard