He works at a nonprofit substance abuse clinic in Marshalltown.
With the new position, Smith said he’ll be reducing his professional schedule to focus on the leadership duties. The leadership job is essentially a full-time position, managing the caucus during the spring legislative session, but also leading the political operation. McCarthy, who served as both speaker and minority leader during his seven years as leader, said the minority role was tougher.
“In the majority you split the political duties (between the majority leader and the speaker,” McCarthy said.
“When you’re the minority leader, you’re it.”
McCarthy declined to specify how much money the leader needed to raise to be competitive, putting it at “a few million.”
Iowa lawmakers are coming off a productive session in which the minority House Democrats played a key role. During the complex negotiations leading up to a budget deal that included education policy changes, an expansion of low-income health care and property tax reductions, the House Democratic votes were needed to pass the human services budget that included the health care expansion. Some conservative Republicans would not vote for the plan because they wanted to block state dollars from reimbursing rare Medicaid funded abortions.
Most expect that next year will be a lighter year from a policy perspective, both because 2013 was so busy and also because members like to wrap up and start campaigning as quickly as possible in an election year.
The Iowa House has flipped back and forth between the parties over the years. Republicans won the House majority in the 2010 election, emerging with a massive 20 seat margin. Democrats regained some ground in 2012, during the presidential election year, winning 47 seats to the 53 Republican seats.
Some said Smith had reason to be optimistic. Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said they felt Iowa was in a strong position to flip the House back to Democratic control.