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Sen. Pam Jochum replaces Sen. Zach Wahls as Iowa Senate minority leader


Sen. Pam Jochum replaces Sen. Zach Wahls as Iowa Senate minority leader

Jun 07, 2023 | 10:53 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
Sen. Pam Jochum replaces Sen. Zach Wahls as Iowa Senate minority leader
Sen. Pam Jochum, left, of Dubuque, will replace Sen. Zach Wahls of Coralville as leader of the Iowa Senate Democrats. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch with inset photos courtesy of the Iowa Legislature)

Iowa Senate Democrats voted Wednesday evening to elect Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, to replace Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, as Senate minority leader.

Iowa Democrats left the meeting at the Iowa State Capitol at 9 p.m., referring questions to Jochum’s office. The move came after Wahls’ office announced via email Friday the office was ending the employment of two longtime Senate Democratic staffers, Eric Bakker and Deb Kattenhorn.

In his message to the caucus, Wahls said he was restructuring the Senate Democratic Leader’s office to bring it “into line with the other legislative leadership offices in the building,” and was bringing on new staff to fill those roles.

Jochum did not mention the move to dismiss the staffers in a news release following the meeting. She thanked Wahls for his ” vision and leadership” in the past three seasons. Wahls did not respond to an immediate request for comment Wednesday.

The 31-year-old senator rose to national prominence for speaking against a House Republican proposal to end civil unions in 2011. He took the minority leader position in 2021 after Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, retired from the role. Petersen had taken the position in 2017, when the caucus removed Sen. Rob Hogg as leader.

Jochum, who served as assistant Democratic leader and as Senate president from 2013 through 2017, said she was honored to receive the “unanimous support” of Senate Democrats to take on the leadership position.

“As a united team, Senate Democrats will continue to fight for the principles we believe in on behalf of the people of Iowa,” Jochum said in a news release. “We’re fighting for strong working families and the rights and freedoms of all people. We’re fighting for high-quality public education and affordable, accessible healthcare in every community.”

Senate Republicans hold a 34-16 supermajority in the Iowa Senate. The 2022 midterm elections left the Iowa Democratic Party with minorities in both chambers of the Statehouse and no federal Congressional seats. Only one Democrat, Auditor Rob Sand, currently holds statewide elected office in Iowa.

“Senate Democrats look forward to offering a better way forward for the people of Iowa – in 2024 and beyond,” Jochum said. “We’re going to defend our incumbent senators, grow our caucus, and win a majority that delivers for middle-class Iowans.”