The Third District Executive Committee put together a process for tracking Iowa legislators and how their votes compared with the Republican Party of Iowa’s platform. Sen. Jake Chapman (R-Adel) topped all 150 legislators and earned the 2019 Republican State Platform Champion Award for attaining the best voting record among all legislators in the 2019 regular session of the 88th General Assembly in support of the Republican platform.
John Strathman, the co-chair of the Third District executive committee, said the group’s primary source document was the House and Senate journals, which are published daily. Any bill that received a floor vote went into their system. Then, after session was over, they read every bill that received a floor vote and separated those that matched a plank in the GOP platform.
For example, in 2018 there were 243 bills that received a floor vote. Sixty-six of those bills matched something in the platform. If a legislator voted in support of the platform, they received a point. The group finished with a composite score for all the bills from the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions.
Chapman finished the two years with a score of 91.96 percent, highest among all 150 legislators.
“Over the years, the conservative, Republican base has had pretty spirited debates and a lot of passion in creating the platform,” Strathman said. “But we’ve never really had a statistical tool to make sure that wasn’t just going on a shelf and legislators were actually acting on that platform or supporting what the base wants done. This gives us a statistical tool to actually shine some light on that. The intent of it is to be a positive thing and to reward those who are doing that.”
If you’re wondering, Sen. Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines) ranked dead last with 56.9 percent.
Strathman said it does take some homework, but the methodology is pretty straightforward.
“We just let the computer match the platform and match the bill and how they voted,” he said.
They have all the data on how it’s figured if anyone is interested.
Of note, 16 of the 32 Republicans in the Iowa Senate scored 90 percent or above. The other 16 Republicans scored between 80-89.
In the Iowa House, all 53 Republicans scored in the 80-89 range. No House Republican eclipsed 90 percent.
“I just thought that was a little interesting,” Strathman said. “This is the first year we’ve actually produced the index and recognized a legislator for their performance. With the House, if you have a narrow majority, do they tend to note vote as strong toward the platform? I don’t know.”
If Celsi’s low score seems a bit high, Strathman said the two parties are actually not always at odds with each other.
“Just because something is in the Republican platform or in the Democrat platform when roles are reversed, it doesn’t mean that what’s in there the other party would just automatically not support,” he said. “One of the things in my mind is Convention of the States. The Democrat platform states it doesn’t support it. In 2018, Republicans had overwhelming support to strike that plank. There are areas where the two parties can work together.
“Just because Claire had the score she did doesn’t make her a conservative. It’s more to say the Democrat platform and the Republican platform are not just complete polar opposites.”