Whitver named new Iowa Senate Majority Leader

Jack Whitver, an Ankeny Republican, will leave his post as Senate President for the top Senate role of Majority Leader. (photo courtesy Iowa Senate Republicans)

Republicans in the Iowa Senate named a new leader Wednesday, following Bill Dix's resignation Monday after an online video surfaced in which he was caught kissing a lobbyist in a Des Moines bar.

Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, will be the new Majority Leader, leaving his post as Senate President for the top Senate role. He will be replaced by Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, while Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, will replace Schneider as Majority Whip.

The decision was made behind closed doors, with Republicans discussing new leadership for nearly an hour.

This all comes just days after a video of former Senator Bill Dix kissing a lobbyist was posted online by Iowa Starting Line, causing him to submit his resignation as Majority Leader and state senator only hours later.

Sen. Whitver said he's humbled to take on the role and honored to have the support of his colleagues. He also said despite the shakeup, he and his party, which controls the chamber, are committed to moving forward.

“We are thrilled with the progress we have made in the state of Iowa over the last year and a half and we’re half way through this session. We’re going to continue to operate efficiently and effectively to continue to make Iowa the number one state in the country,” Whitver said. "This caucus has been an effective governing force because we have remained united in pursuing our goals. That unity remains in place today."

Though Whitver didn't outwardly address the fallout from Dix, he did indicate that he and the Senate Republicans are trying to put the past behind them.

"I believe it is a new day in the state of Iowa and in the Iowa Senate and we look forward to moving forward," Whitver said.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, congratulated Whitver and Schneider on their new roles in a statement, saying they have an opportunity to "get it right and change a culture at the Iowa Capitol."

She also called on them to take responsibility for the firing of Kirsten Anderson, a former Senate GOP staffer who won $1.75 million from the state in a sexual harassment lawsuit this summer.

“Iowa taxpayers’ dollars should have never been used as a slush fund to cover the cost of sexual harassment by Senate Republicans," Petersen said in a statement. "Senators Whitver and Schneider should turn over all campaign funds raised by Senator Dix to begin to cover the costs of the illegal behavior by their caucus.”

Schneider said Monday he wants to put a policy in place in the chamber based off former U.S. Ambassador Mary Kramer's recommendations. Kramer, a former state lawmaker and human resources executive, was hired to address workplace culture in the Senate following the fallout from the Anderson case. She gave recommendations to Senate leadership, at the time Dix and Whitver, in January.

"The handbook still has to be updated and I certainly want to see it updated to reflect the recommendations [Kramer] made," Schneider told reporters Monday after news about Dix's resignation broke.

Governor Kim Reynolds and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, both said in statements that they forward to working with the new leadership.

Whitver was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2011. He is a graduate of Iowa State University, where he played football, and an attorney a law firm in Des Moines. He is also a small business owner, owning several athletic centers in the Des Moines-metro.

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