State Representative Andy McKean of Anamosa announced he is changing political parties, switching from Republican to Democrat.
He released the following remarks regarding his decision:
“I was first elected to the legislature back in 1978 when I was still in my late 20s. After serving 7 terms in the House, I moved to the Senate for 3 terms where I served as Chair of the Judiciary Committee and President Pro Tem. Highlights of those years included the opportunity to play a role in the passage of non-partisan redistricting legislation and the creation of REAP, developing the first legislation addressing sentencing reform and elderly abuse, and floor managing what at that time was considered one of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. While my emphasis was on bi-partisan undertakings, I was comfortable with my party’s priorities and felt at home in the Republican caucus. Governor Ray was in office when I first served and was a wonderful mentor. I continue to believe that he epitomizes what is best about public service.
“In 2002, after 24 years in the legislature, I made the decision to retire and return to Jones County to serve as a county supervisor. Our 4 children were in or approaching their teenage years and I felt I was needed at home. I had missed some very important times in my children’s lives and wished to make up for some of the time I had lost. And with college expenses on the horizon, I also needed to put more time into my law practice.
“In 2015, I retired after 35 years of practicing law. Now that the children were on their own, I looked forward to having more time for our grandchildren, traveling, and interests that had been on the back burner during the busy years of raising a family and making a living. However, as so often happens, a chance event led to a change in my plans. In March, 2016, I learned that Brian Moore had decided not to seek re-election to the House and was urged to return to the legislature. I don’t think I was quite ready for retirement. After so many active years of public service, wondering where to travel to next and working on my Spanish and fiddle playing seemed a bit self-indulgent. I felt I had more to contribute and about a week before the filing deadline and against my wife’s advice, made the decision to return to politics. I won a 3-way Republican primary and in November was elected in a tough district against a credible and well-financed opponent. I looked forward to returning to the legislature without the responsibilities of a young family and a busy law practice.
“Upon returning to Des Moines after a 15-year hiatus, I found a very different place. As Bill Petroski mentioned in his speech last month and as long-time legislators and lobbyists will attest to, the legislature is considerably more partisan and regimented than it used to be. I have found that difficult to adjust to and believe it often stands in the way of good legislation. I’m also concerned by the increasing influence big money is having on the legislative process.
“In addition, I found a very changed Republican caucus. Although I have great respect for the Speaker and Majority Leader and appreciate their efforts to find a role for me in the caucus, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the stance of my party on the vast majority of high-profile issues and often sympathetic with concerns raised by the minority caucus. I voted against many of these priorities, spoke in opposition to them in committee and on the floor, or worked for changes to make what I considered questionable legislation somewhat better. At any rate, I know that I have disappointed and angered at least some of my caucus in the process. It is not a role I relish and perhaps I’ve been unfair to both my caucus and to myself by continuing to serve in it. I appreciate the members of my caucus, respect their passion for what they believe in, and am sorry that I haven’t been able to be a better team player.
"I might have limped along attempting to work within my caucus for what I felt was best for the people I represent if it hadn’t been for another factor. 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.
"I believe that it is just a matter of time before our country pays a heavy price for President Trump’s reckless spending and short-sighted financial policies, his erratic, destabilizing foreign policy, and his disregard for environmental concerns. Furthermore, 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 has willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearance, ethnicity, or disability. 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. Unacceptable behavior should be called out for what is and Americans of all parties should insist on something far better in the leader of their country and the free world.
“Later this week back home in Jones County, I intend to change my voter registration from Republican to Democrat and will be joining the minority caucus. This has been a very difficult decision for me and has only come after considerable reflection, much prayer, and many restless nights. I’ve been a registered Republican for close to half a century, a Republican office holder for 35 years, am the longest serving Republican currently in the Iowa legislature, and am proud of many good things that the Republican party has accomplished over many years. I am also all too aware that my decision will be a disappointment to many friends and colleagues who have supported me over the years. However, the time comes when you have to be true to yourself and follow the dictates of your conscience. For me, that time has come.”
Following his announcement, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price released the following statement:
“We gladly welcome Andy McKean to the Democratic Party. His decision to put people over politics shows his commitment to our state. Rep. McKean has already joined Democrats in standing up for a host of issues important to Iowa’s working families and his announcement brings us one vote closer to truly representing Iowa values in the House.
“He’s a respected lawmaker and I look forward to working with him to ensure that all Iowans are represented under the golden dome.”