Tom Greene Won’t Run For Reelection, Opens Swing Seat

Burlington state Sen. Tom Greene will not seek a second term in the Iowa Legislature, leaving open a swing seat that is considered a must-win for Democrats who are desperate to gain more leverage in a chamber where they are greatly outnumbered.

Greene, elected to represent Senate District 44 in 2016, ousted Democrat Tom Courtney in a surprise upset, riding a Republican wave that swept through the Statehouse and across the country.

District 44 includes all of Des Moines and Louisa counties and part of Muscatine County in Southeast Iowa.

The Senate Republican caucus was formally informed of Greene’s decision on Tuesday. Republicans lead the Senate with 32 members compared to Democrats’ 18.

“I’ve totally enjoyed my time in the Senate,” Greene, 70, told Starting Line. “I feel I’ve done exactly what I was elected to do, and that was to bring some fiscal sensibility to the Iowa Senate.”

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Burlington is by far the most Democratic city in his district, and the legislative forums there over the years have drawn hundreds of angry constituents questioning his votes to dismantle collective bargaining rights, ban abortion and close Planned Parenthood clinics.

In April 2017, as his first session came to a close, the “Iowans Against Senator Tom Greene – SD44” Facebook page was created.

A longtime local pharmacist, Greene was well-liked at the Capitol and among Republicans in the district, but often was outnumbered at legislative forums that tend to draw more complaints than compliments.

Greene bested Courtney by about 1,400 votes in 2016 between the three counties. In Des Moines County, which used to be a Democratic stronghold, Greene received 623 more votes than Courtney. He also won Louisa County and the rural portion of Muscatine County.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” Greene said. “I’m really glad I did it and put my name out there.”

While in the Senate, Greene introduced legislation to expand the use of medical cannabis in the state. He also authored a bill to mandate drug testing and work requirements for certain Medicaid recipients, an idea Republicans are expected to debate again this year. The bulk of the legislation he introduced and managed on the Senate floor was health care-related, often specifically tied to issues impacting pharmaceuticals.

Expanding access to medical cannabis was an issue Greene said he intended to keep working on this session.

“I was disappointed in the governor’s veto of the medical cannabis bill (in 2019),” Greene said. “I’ve been reassured by the governor’s office and by Senate and House leadership that we will get something done there that the governor will support. That’s important, I think. People who have debilitating diseases need to have another alternative when they’ve failed on traditional medicine and traditional pharmacies.”

Greene’s latest fundraising report, filed Jan. 10, pointed to a possible exit, having raised only $2,805 in 2019. In comparison, Republican Sen. Jeff Edler of State Center, who also is running in a competitive Senate district, raised $16,070 and GOP  raised $25,150.

Sen. Michael Breitbach of Decorah also announced this week that he will not run for reelection in 2020, opening up another competitive district in the Northeast corner of the state.

Courtney, who represented District 44 from 2003-2017, announced in August he was running to retake the seat. 

Rex Troute, a retired newspaperman and author from Burlington, and Kevin Warth, a farmer from Des Moines County, also are running in the Democratic primary.

Courtney raised $14,103 in 2019 and has $14,681 in cash-on-hand. Troute, a first-time candidate, raised $8,665, all from individual donors. He ended the year with $7,543 in cash-on-hand. Warth, also a first-time candidate, raised $565 and loaned himself $3,346. He has $747 in cash-on-hand.


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 2/12/20

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