DES MOINES — The 2020 Iowa Legislature convenes a week from today and a new leader with a familiar last name will be installed as Speaker of the House.
If you ask State Representative Pat Grassley to describe himself, he starts out by saying he’s a “sand farmer from New Hartford” and a dad. “Three kids — 13, 10 and 5. My wife’s an administrator at a nursing home in Ackley and then, obviously, my grandfather’s Senator Grassley and my dad’s the farmer-son of Senator Grassley,” Pat Grassley says. “Nobody knows his name and that’s the way he likes it.” Pat and his dad, Robin Grassley, farm 17-hundred acres of corn and soybeans and raise about 200 head of cattle for sale each year.
Grassley has repeatedly rejected the notion he’s being groomed to run for the U.S. Senate when his grandfather Chuck Grassley retires. “Everyone thinks there’s been this grand scheme and I kind of joke about it because it is kind of silly, Grassley says. “that when my grandfather had my dad in 1960, that someday he would have a son that was in politics just in time for him to be ready to retire.”
Grassley, who is 36 years old, has been around politics his whole life. As a nine-year-old, he was pictured riding a bicycle in one of Chuck Grassley’s campaign ads, then his grandfather used the same ad when Pat Grassley was a high school freshman. “Nothing better than it running every 15 minutes on the TV,” Grassley jokes. “That’s not hard on your reputation.”
Grassley’s Republican colleagues in the House have selected him to take over as speaker next week. It means he’ll be in charge of recruiting candidates and raising money for Republicans running for House seats in November. Grassley says it’s no secret Democrats are focused on winning a majority of those races, but Grassley points to Democratic incumbents who may be vulnerable because they live in districts President Trump won in 2016 and Governor Reynolds, a Republican, won in 2018. “The president being on the ballot in some of these seats I actually think has a positive effect,” Grassley says. “The governor displayed the ability to win some of these seats we don’t currently hold and so I think those two things really bode well for us in the coming election.”
As he enters his 14th year in the legislature, Grassley will be leading negotiations over legislation. Grassley says it’ll be difficult to devise a package that would raise the state sales tax AND reduce other taxes during the 2020 legislature. “I probably bring a little bit more caution to the table that others have on this because this is a big conversation piece that’s going to happen,” Grassley says, “if there’s even the appetite to do it in the legislature.” Grassley says a priority for House Republicans will be finding ways to expand access to affordable child care.