Representative Andy McKean made it official today with a press conference in the office of House Minority Leader Todd Prichard (D-Charles City). McKean is transitioning from a Republican to a Democrat.
“Today I’m very pleased to announce that we are welcoming Rep. Andy McKean to the Democratic caucus here in the Iowa House,” Prichard said. “We are very pleased to have him as part of our caucus and look forward to finishing the session with Andy among our ranks.”
Prichard praised McKean’s record of bipartisanship and hard work in the House.
“He’s been a pragmatic leader and a strong voice for the people of his district in House District 58 in east central Iowa,” Prichard said. “He brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the role.”
McKean was first elected in 1978. He served seven terms in the House and went to the Senate for three terms. In 2002 he retired from the legislature and served as county supervisor in Jones County.
In 2015 he retired after practicing law for 35 years. He planned to stay retired, but when former Rep. Brian Moore decided not to seek re-election, McKean was urged to run for the House seat.
“About a week before the filing deadline and against my wife’s advice, (I) made the decision to return to politics,” McKean said.
He won a three-way Republican primary and was elected in November in “a tough district against a credible and well-financed opponent.”
McKean beat his Democrat opponent, Jessica Kean, in 2016 with 59.05 percent of the vote. He received 9,078 votes while Kean received 6,296.
During that campaign cycle McKean received $111,954 from the Iowa Republican Party. His next top contributors were the Associated General Contractors of Iowa ($4,000), Jackson County Republican Central Committee of Iowa ($1,650), Iowa State Bar Association ($1,500) and Jones County Republican Central Committee of Iowa ($1,450), according to Follow the Money.
In 2018, the Republican Party of Iowa gave him $3,267.50 on Oct. 26, just before the general election.
McKean said he hopes people in his district realize he’s still the same Andy McKean he always was.
“I’ve just changed my party affiliation,” he said. “But I’ll still be working for the very same goals and priorities that I’ve had over 30 years in public services.”
He said he knows there will be ramifications and some will be disappointed while others will be pleased. McKean intends to seek re-election as a Democrat in 2020. It was tough to reach the conclusion he did regarding changing his party affiliation, but it was also tough to remain a Republican.
“I found it increasingly tough to be in a party that I no longer felt comfortable with,” he said. “I think the party has veered very sharply to the right and that concerns me.”
He wanted to announce his decision while he still had time to tell those who it would impact face to face.
“I also felt that if I were to wait and do it once session was over, I wouldn’t feel right about that,” he said. “I wanted to do it when I could actually be talking to the people who are going to be impacted by my decision.”
McKean said he considered taking the No Party route like former Sen. David Johnson, but decided not to do that. Johnson did not even run for re-election after he left the Republican Party over Donald Trump.
“In watching Sen. Johnson’s experience, it was very clear to me that he was very marginalized in the Senate and I want to continue to be an active member of the House,” he said. “I felt that there was much more likelihood of that in the Democrat Party. Quite frankly, listening to discussion on the critical issues of the day since I’ve been back in Des Moines, I’ve felt great sympathy with the Democrat Party on major issues.”
Ultimately McKean said perhaps both he and the GOP had changed over the years.
“I certainly don’t want to put it all on the feet of the party,” he said.
Prichard said if the Republicans bring forward “controversial and bad ideas” like changing the judicial nominating process, the end of session will probably be delayed.
“We’re not going to lay down and just acquiesce to that kind of partisan idea which I think is politicizing our courts,” Prichard said. “It could definitely prolong the session.”
McKean said he doesn’t expect to find many moderates in the Democrat caucus. He expects he’ll find many “like-minded” people in the caucus. When he was first elected, the Republican Party had many moderates. But it is not the case today.
“The grass always looks greener across the field,” he said. “I’m sure there will be some things that I might not appreciate in that caucus as well and I will continue to speak out for what I believe in and I look forward to that opportunity. I’ve had a good opportunity to meet and visit with folks in the Democratic caucus and I think I’ll find a role in that caucus.”
He said he’s always been a fiscal conservative and appreciates efforts by Republicans to devise frugal, balanced budgets.