Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Columbia, announced Wednesday night he will not seek re-election, leaving his seat in Iowa’s House of Representatives up for grabs.
Heartsill, currently serving his third term, represents Iowa’s 28th district, which includes parts of Jasper, Marion and Lucas counties. In a statement released to the press, Heartsill cited a desire to spend more time with his family. Heartsill and his wife Angie have nine children.
“My family has experienced many changes in recent years and are now entering new stages in life,” Heartsill said. “After consulting with them, I have decided to shift my focus there.”
The announcement caught many by surprise, including members of Heartsill’s own party. Thad Nearmyer, chair of the Jasper County Republican Party said he was expecting Heartsill to run again in 2018.
“He had his nomination papers at the caucus,” Nearmyer said. “I think he was planning on running until just recently.”
Nearmyer said he’s unsure of who will replace Heartsill on the Republican ticket in the 28th district. While he hasn’t had a chance to meet with Heartsill yet, Nearmyer is hoping he will have a candidate in mind. With Jasper County’s Republican Convention quickly approached this weekend, Nearmyer said there’s still enough time for a potential candidate to get the required 50 signatures.
“Somebody could make that happen if they were really on the ball and ready to go,” Nearmyer said. “My committee hasn’t really made any decisions or thought about who should run. I’m hoping he [Heartsill] has somebody in mind.”
Heartsill’s district has traditionally leaned to the right, and Nearmyer said he’s confident the Republican party will be able to hold onto Heartsill’s seat in the house. Heartsill easily won his re-election bid in 2016, capturing 67.24 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Martin Duffy. No matter who replaces Heartsill in the statehouse, Nearmyer said Heartsill will be missed.
“He’s been a great state representative, he’s one of the best, true conservatives up there,” Nearmyer said. “We’re really proud of him and what he’s done for us.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had plenty of praise for Heartsill on Wednesday. Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, highlighted Heartsill’s work ethic, calling him “hard worker” even though he admitted they don’t always see eye to eye on legislative issues.
“He is very committed and passionate about working for his constituents and the citizens of Iowa, I’ve seen him put in the work and effort for those constituents,” Breckenridge said. “We may have a very different ideology, but we’ve always tried to collaborate when we can.”
Heartsill is well known in the House for his willingness to work across the aisle to pass legislation. Several bills he authored this year have been co-sponsored by Democrats and have enjoyed wide bipartisan support. HF 2340, a bill that would update the state’s rural fencing laws attempting to eliminate conflicts of interest with appointed mediators, known as fence viewers, who settle fence line disputes on Iowa’s agricultural properties passed the Iowa House last month in a bipartisan 98-0 vote. Heartsill said his willingness to work across the aisle has been an asset during his political career.
“I have enjoyed building relationships with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. That has made all the difference in getting legislation passed that is meaningful to Iowans,” he said. “It has truly been an honor to serve in this capacity.”
While Heartsill’s career may lack a signature piece of legislation, Nearmyer said most of Heartsill’s legislative efforts have been focused on listening to input from constituents and finding a way to bring those concerns to the statehouse. This year, Heartsill also introduced a “Tax Me More” bill, which would allow taxpayers to contribute in excess of what the state required. Heartsill also co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Mary Lynne Wolfe, D-Clinton, that aims to restore certain rights to convicted felons after their sentence has been served.
HF 2266 does not lay out which rights — voting, firearms possession, serving on a jury — would be restored, or if the law would be attributed to felons convicted of both non-violent and violent offenses.
The bill passed a House subcommittee Feb. 12, and made it through the first funnel. But Heartsill said he thinks the bill might not see the full House until the 2019 legislative session.
He said he hopes the bill will spur an interim study committee before next year’s session to define what restoration of rights would look like. Iowa is one of a handful of states that does not allow convicted felons the right to vote after they’ve completed their sentence. The state’s Supreme Court upheld a voting ban for felons in 2016.
“If they’ve done their time, when will they get to exercise their rights as a full-fledged citizen again?” Heartsill said. “It’s been talked about and kicked around, but no one’s taken it seriously.”
The filing period for state candidates ends on March 16; no candidates have filed for Iowa House District 28.
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org