State Representative Andy McKean is switching sides. The Republican legislator from Jones County has decided to leave his party and join Democrats in the Iowa House. He will re-register as a Democrat later this week back at home, and currently plans on running for reelection as a Democrat.
“I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the stance of my party on the vast majority of high profiles issues and often sympathetic with concerns raised by the minority caucus,” McKean said in a press conference this morning.
But another major factor in his decision was President Donald Trump.
“With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party. Unfortunately, that is something I’m unable to do,” McKean said.
“He sets, in my opinion, a poor example for the nation and particularly for our children by personally insulting, often in a crude and juvenile fashion, those who disagree with him, being a bully at a time when we’re attempting to discourage bullying, his frequent disregard for the truth, and his willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearances, ethnicity, or disability,” McKean added. “I believe that his 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. 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.”
First elected to the Iowa House in 1978, McKean left the Legislature after several terms in the Iowa Senate in 2003. He made his return in the 2016 election, winning what used to be a swing seat in Eastern Iowa.
But the Republican Party he came back to was not the one he used to know.
A moderate Republican, McKean split with his party on many key votes in recent years, including the 2017 collective bargaining and workers compensation bills. He was the only Republican earlier this year to side with Democrats on an amendment to a proposed constitutional amendment on gun rights. He also joined Democrats last week in voting against a bill that allowed stun guns on college campuses. And McKean also opposed the party’s push to change how the process of selecting judges in Iowa.
McKean’s defection takes Democrats to a 47 to 53 minority in the Iowa House. It also significantly increases Democrats’ chances of retaking the chamber in 2020. Although McKean’s HD 58, which covers Jackson County and parts of Jones County, used to be a reliable swing seat, Republicans have improved their vote margins here in recent years.
McKean is very well-known and respected in his district, easily fending off Democratic challenges with an 18-point win in 2016 and a 38-point victory in 2018. He has not yet publicly indicated if he will run for reelection, but his deep roots in the district and decades of electoral success means that this could certainly stay in Democratic hands in 2020.
If it does, that makes the 2020 map much more favorable to Democrats. They would already pick up a seat with McKean that would have been nearly impossible to take had he stayed a Republican. And it takes the pressure off of running the tables in several blue-collar and rural districts that could flip.
Interestingly enough, another party-switcher used to represent this district. Brian Moore first ran as a Democrat in a state senate primary in 2010. After losing to Tod Bowman, he ran as a Republican for the state house seat there and won, holding it in subsequent elections despite strong Democratic efforts.
This is a developing story. More updates to come.
by Pat Rynard