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Iowa Senate rejects two of three Regents appointments, Lang and Cramer

BY STACEY MURRAY | APRIL 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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Following months of speculation, the Iowa Senate failed to confirm two of Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointees to the state Board of Regents on Monday, and one political expert said this could lead to future backlash from Senate Republicans.

The Senate voted 27-23 to reject Robert Cramer’s nomination for a six-year term on the board. Approval needed 34 senators’ affirmative vote. The Senate also failed to reappoint Regent President Craig Lang, on a vote of 30-20. The third nominee, Subhash Sahai, was confirmed on a 45-5 vote.

Voting to reject Cramer were all 24 Democrats in the Senate and three Republicans.

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political-science associate professor, said Democrats should be careful, because a switch in the majority will happen eventually.

“In a certain sense, the Senate Democrats think these people are too politically active, but there will come a time when the shoe is on the other foot,” Hagle said.

In addition to his participation in the socially conservative Family Leader organization, Cramer had undergone criticism while serving on the Johnston School Board.

Lang said while he was disappointed in the results, he respected the decision of the Iowa Senate.

“I am proud of the accomplishments of the Board of Regents during my term,” he said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate the experience I have had to serve the people of Iowa as a member of the Board of Regents.”

Lang had come under fire in recent months when Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, backtracked on his decision to donate roughly 30 years of his Congressional papers to Iowa State University.

Lang was appointed to the board in 2007 and elected president of the board in July 2011. His term is set to expire at the end of April along with fellow Regents Jack Evans and David Miles.

Branstad released a statement following the failed confirmations and said both Cramer and Lang deserved the opportunity to serve as regents.

“I am greatly disappointed that these two fine individuals were treated in such a shabby manner,” he said.

Republicans called foul play on the failed appointments.

“The ‘No’ vote was completely unnecessary. Democrats played party politics today and focused on values held by the candidates rather than their ability to serve the state of Iowa,” Iowa GOP chairman A.J. Spiker said in a press release.

Iowa Democrats lashed back, saying the Senate has confirmed more than 99 percent of Branstad’s appointees, and these exceptions were handled in a proper way.

“The few appointees that failed to be confirmed received serious, substantial consideration and their non-confirmation came after concerns were addressed in a professional manner,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said in a press release.

Iowa Democrats maintain that Branstad’s accusations aren’t correct.

“Gov. Branstad’s repeated cries that ‘Washington-style politics’ led to the defeat of a tiny number of his appointees is ridiculous and historically inaccurate,” Gronstal said.

But Hagle said this could be a way to poke holes in Branstad’s possible upcoming election as a piece of a bigger political agenda.

“This might be a way to get back at Branstad as we look forward to the 2014 elections,” Hagle said. “It seems like he might run — this will be a way to embarrass him to a certain extent.”

While Branstad has not publically announced another bid for governor, Hagle warned Senate Democrats the time will come when the majority-power tables turn.

“Republicans will want consistency on this issue,” he said.


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