Democrats On Reynolds’ Speech: Too Much Division, Partisanship

Photo by Kelsey Kramer/Des Moines Register

By Team Starting Line

January 10, 2023

Gov. Kim Reynolds used her sixth Condition of the State address on Tuesday to attack her critics, talk about her accomplishments, discuss new ways to restrict abortion rights, and laid out extensive proposals to remake public education.

“Together, we have built a strong foundation upon which Iowa can continue to rise,” she said. “A place where families thrive, businesses grow, and government is responsive to the people. Now, we have a chance to do it again.”

The 50-minute speech was delivered inside a packed House chamber at the Iowa State Capitol building and it went over well with most Republican officials in attendance who gave Reynolds standing ovations through her address. Iowa Democrats had a different reaction.

“There was a lot of times I didn’t stand up, I’ll say that,” said J.D. Scholten, a freshman Democratic legislator from Sioux City.

Scholten thought Reynolds’ speech painted an inaccurate picture of how the state was doing.

“Judging from the governor, you would think the state is booming, but the reality is that a lot of parts like Sioux City and my neck of the woods, we haven’t bounced back from the 2008 economic crisis,” Scholten said.

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However, Scholten said he did like Reynolds’ proposals to try and reduce the amount of fentanyl and the deaths associated with them in the state, something Rep. Megan Srivnas, a Des Moines Democrat and doctor who is also starting her first term, agreed with.

“While the measures were unclear what she was referring to, I was heartened to see that there is a discussion of wanting to make sure that we have campaigns that are going towards children and families, to help take measures like potentially fentanyl test strip legalization, that would be something I was hoping that campaign would go into,” she said.

Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst (D-Windsor Heights) called Reynolds’ speech a disappointment.

“I really thought the governor would see the political climate, see that we are divided as a country and try to find a way to bring us together,” Konfrst said. “Instead, what I heard was a lot of division, a lot of ‘I was right and they were wrong,’ a lot of talk about her policies and what she wants to accomplish instead of what she wants to do to help Iowa.”

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Rep. Heather Matson (D-Ankeny), who is entering her second term in the state house, shared a similar sentiment.

“There was some moments where I was surprised in the beginning where she started with some real partisan stuff and she took the approach of starting where we have had differences in the past and used that as a foundation of where she wanted to go,” Matson said.

“I really wished she had taken the opportunity to strike a bipartisan note from the beginning.”

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Rep. Lindsay James (D-Dubuque) also said the speech was more focused on division than real concerns. 

“The governor has an opportunity in these kinds of moments to call people to higher ground, to unite people when it comes to the common good of every single Iowan. Unfortunately, that’s not what we heard tonight,” she said. 

“All we heard was elevating, again, special interest over people, putting politics over people, and that has been the realities of the last seven years in a GOP trifecta.”

Toward the end of her speech, Reynolds announced a plan to remake the structure of state government.

“It’s been nearly 40 years since we’ve undertaken a comprehensive review of government operations and structure. And frankly, it shows,” she said.

“Iowa has 37 executive branch cabinet members, significantly more than both our neighbors and best practice. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma all have populations and budgets similar to Iowa but just 15 cabinet members.”

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Reynolds said she plans to merge similar agencies under one umbrella, going from 37 cabinet-level departments to 16. 

Konfrst, the Dem leader in the House, had no insight on how this realigned state government would look and Rep. Austin Baeth, a Des Moines Democrat, was cautious about the prospect.

“You know, there was a lot of messaging that I think was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and hard to really interpret what she has in mind for some of the government restructuring,” he said.


by Ty Rushing & Nikoel Hytrek

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To contact Senior Editor Ty Rushing for tips or story ideas, email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @RushthewriterHave a story idea or something I should know? Email me at [email protected]. You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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