Iowa Majority Leader Resigns After Video Shows Him Kissing Lobbyist

by | March 13, 2018

By Rod Boshart

Majority Senate Republicans vowed to have a new floor general by Wednesday to finish out a legislative session they hope will produce major state tax cuts, a responsible state budget plan and other conservative priorites that were moving before Bill Dix abruptly resigned as GOP leader Monday.

Dix, an 18-year veteran of the Iowa Legislature, shocked his 29-member caucus by resigning his leadership and District 25 position Monday in the wake of a video posted online that appeared to show the Shell Rock Republican kissing a female lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.

In a short statement, Dix announced his resignation as majority leader and state senator effective at 2 p.m. Monday. He sent a resignation letter to Iowa Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, in accordance with Iowa Code requirement.

Sen. Charles Schneider R-West Des Moines responds in Dix aftermath

"This has taken everybody by surprise," said Senate President Pro Tempore Jerry Behn, R-Boone, a past leader of the Senate GOP caucus.

"I'm shocked. I think everybody is but we've got a job to do," said Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, who filled in for Dix as the floor leader calling up bills during Monday's Senate debate. "That's why people elected us -- to come here and do a job and we're going to stay focused on that job."

Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, declined comment after a closed-door GOP caucus. But his office issued a statement confirming Dix's departure.

"I believe he made the right decision for himself and for his district, but most importantly, I believe he made the decision in the best interest of his family," Whitver said in his statement.

"Senate Republicans will continue to move the policies Iowans elected us to pursue," Whitver added. "After discussions with the Republican caucus this afternoon, an election to fill the position of Iowa Senate majority leader will be held on Wednesday."

Dix, a third-generation farmer who was born and raised on his family farm near Janesville, met with fellow Republicans for about 15 minutes behind closed doors in a Senate committee room where staffers had placed a large white board in front of the glass window to keep TV cameras, reporters or others from seeing in the room.

"It was somber. It was sad," Schneider said of the mood in the closed-door meeting where Dix indicated he would stop down. "There was anger as well."

Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, who attended the meeting, said Dix "did the right thing for himself, for his family and for Iowans today and I think as a caucus we'll move forward."

Behn, Schnedier, Bertrand and others declined to speculate on who might emerge as the next Senate majority leader, calling it "the will of the caucus," but Behn said Monday's distraction would be short-lived as lawmakers push toward Friday's funnel deadline and next month's expected adjournment.

"Everything we did, we did as a caucus," Behn said. "We weren't following what Bill said. We all worked together on this. I think the process will proceed pretty much on schedule."

Earlier in the day, Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed "extreme disappointment" and told reporters at her 11 a.m. weekly news conference she planned to meet privately with the Senate majority leader to discuss the situation and get more information concerning the video posted on the Iowa Starting Line blog.

"With what little I know, I'm certainly disappointed in what I'm hearing," Reynolds told reporters.

"I think Iowans holds their elected officials to a high standard. They expect us to lead and I expect to lead," the governor said. "I want to know the facts. I'm extremely disappointed in what I'm hearing but until I have an opportunity to hear the story I'm not going to comment yet."

But by early afternoon, Dix made the decision to end his Senate stay in the final year of his second term. He previously served in the Iowa House for five terms and was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010 and became majority leader after the 2016 election. He represented Bulter, Grundy, Hardin and Story counties.

Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan independent who left the Republican Party in 2016 over differences with now-GOP President Donald Trump, said he had not seen the video but noted he had heard similar reports about Dix prior to Monday's posting of the video, telling reporters "this is nothing new." He called for Dix to resign as majority leader.

"It's a disgrace to the majority party caucus. I think he needs to make the decision to at least step down from leadership," said Johnson. "We don't need this ongoing story about where Senate Republican leadership is on these issues dealing with women."

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines issued a statement calling the video posted on Starting Line "a serious matter" that follows Dix's failure to take any responsibility for the $1.75 million settlement that resulted from the sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against former Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson by Republican senators and staff.

Dix's resignation, she said, gave GOP senators an opportunity to "finally get it right and change a culture at the Iowa Capito"l that puts lobbyists, special interests, and "political arrogance" ahead of the interests of Iowa families.

"Republican senators have an obligation to elect a new leader who will take responsibility for the sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against former Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson by Republican Senators and staff. After footing the bill for a $1.75 million settlement in Kirsten Anderson's lawsuit against Senate Republicans, Iowa taxpayers deserve nothing less," she said.

"It is shameful that the only person fired in this whole scandal was the victim," Petersen added.

The new Senate Republican leader should be someone who will hold   Republican Senators and staff accountable for their actions in the Kirsten Anderson case and take steps immediately to address this issue."

Reynolds said she hoped the majority party leaders could "move on" with the 2018 session in pushing plans to cut taxes, balance the budget and address other priorities would not be impacted by Monday's development.

"I think Iowans holds their elected officials to a high standard. They expect us to lead and I expect to lead," the governor said. "I want to know the facts. I'm extremely disappointed in what I'm hearing but until I have an opportunity to hear the story I'm not going to comment yet."

(c)2018 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)