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Veteran Iowa State Legislator Andy McKean Goes "Blue"

And the Republican Exodus (Rexodus) Keeps on Coming—IA’s Andy McKean Joins “Team Blue” April 30, 2019

Jews and Christians recently observed the two key holidays on their liturgical calendars—Passover (4/19-4/27/19) and Easter (Catholic/Protestant Easter, 4/21/19, and Eastern Orthodox Easter, 4/28/19). Passover, seen by many as the birthday of the Jewish People, commemorates the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt and liberation from slavery, while Easter celebrates Jesus’ Resurrection three days after the Crucifixion. However, in our polarized country, even these most sacred observances have now become political footballs. Witness super-bigot GOP Congressman Steve King. Ninth-term IA 4th Congressional District Congressman King, remember, was finally condemned by the whole House and stripped by his fellow Republicans from his committee posts for white supremacist comments he had been making for years. At a 4/23/2019 town hall meeting, Rep. King hit a new low. He told a Protestant pastor that after having been accused by “400-and-some members of the House,” he understood “just what Jesus went through during his own passion (See desmoinesregister.com, Opsahi, R., 4/23/19).” Unbelievable!

And, of course, the GOP itself, at Demagogue Donald’s urgings, started a group it initially called “Jexodus. ” “Jexodus” was an attempt to have Jews start an “exodus” from the Democratic Party, (using the Passover analogy), and vote GOP. Why? Because, GOPers claim the comments of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) about Jewish “dual loyalty” and financial influence over foreign policy “prove” (NOT) that the Democratic Party is riddled with anti-Semitism. Never mind that Omar was immediately twice rebuked by overwhelming House majorities, including her fellow Democrats. Never mind that from the start of his 2016 campaign, Demagogue Donald and his fellow GOPers used anti-Semitic memes and sent “dog whistles” to white supremacists. These “dog whistles,” actually, bullhorns, included a six-pointed Star of David look-alike and piles of money next to Hillary in a Trump ad. GOP candidates kept referring to Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivor, now American George Soros, as trying to “buy” the election for the Democrats in 2016 and 2018. And, of course, never mind what happened after the 8/11-12/2017 Charlottesville, VA white supremacist riot that took three lives, those of Heather Heyer and two law enforcement officers. Instead of condemning the Charlottesville neo-Nazi/KKK violence, Donald found “very fine people on both sides.” In fact, as he left the White House on 4/26/2019, Trump stated that he had responded “perfectly” concerning the Charlottesville riot (shareblue.com, Willis, O., 4/26/19). Trump has repeatedly “joked” about Jews enjoying bargaining power and money. In a recent speech to Jewish American Republicans, Trump referred to Israeli Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu as “your Prime Minister.” Arguing that Jewish Americans only care about Israel and nothing else plays into the worst stereotypes about this community (See cnn.com, Zelizer, J., 4/08/19). To believe that Jewish Americans will leave the Democratic Party in a mass exodus, when 71% of them disapprove of Donald and 79% of them voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, is to live in Trump’s non-reality-based “alternative universe with its alternative facts (See Zelizer, cnn.com).”

However, there is a real exodus going on in the U.S. political world, but not the kind Trump and his followers want to call attention to. On 4/23/2019, IA State Representative Andy McKean, the Hawkeye State’s longest serving Republican legislator, ditched “Team Red” and joined “Team Blue.” He stated he could no longer support Trump as the party’s standard-bearer because of his “unacceptable behavior and reckless spending (Flynn, M., 4/24/19, washingtonpost.com).” McKean said, “It was just a matter of time before the country pays a heavy price for Trump’s reckless spending and shortsighted financial policies, as well as his administration’s environmental and destabilizing foreign policies.” McKean added, “He (Trump) sets, in my opinion, a poor example for the nation and particularly for our children by personally insulting, often in a crude and juvenile fashion, those who disagree with him, being a bully at a time when we’re attempting to discourage bullying.” McKean continued, “I believe his (Trump’s) actions have coarsened political discourse, have resulted in unprecedented divisiveness and have created an atmosphere that is a breeding ground for hateful rhetoric and actions. Some would excuse this behavior as ‘telling it like it is’ and the new normal. If this is the new normal, I want no part of it (washingtonpost.com, Flynn, 4/24/19).” Mc Kean’s defection from the GOP was reported not only in IA, but nationally on CNN and the Washington Post. He is no outlier. McKean is part of a “Rexodus,” Republican exodus, that has been taking place throughout the country since Donald took power. Let’s look at McKean and other defecting GOPers.

NY City native Andrew John McKean (69) currently represents the 58th District of the IA House of Representatives (HD). The Hawkeye 58th HD is located in the northeastern part of IA and includes 29,293 residents (Ballotpedia.org). The 58th is centered in Jones County with Anamosa (2010 pop. 5, 533) as its county seat. Anamosa is included in the Cedar Rapids, IA metropolitan area, close to Dubuque (See naco.org/Counties). Anamosa is home of the Anamosa State Penitentiary, IA’s largest prison. J&P Motorcycles, which supply aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories, is located in Anamosa. Anamosa is the birthplace and burial place of artist Grant Wood, best known for his “American Gothic” painting (nationalmcmuseum.org, 3/03/12, webarchive.org, 4/02/12, Singer, Kos, 4/23/19).

The IA 58th was one of the 710 state legislative districts that intersected with one or more of the “Pivot Counties.” These 206 “Pivot Counties” voted for Donald in 2016 after going for Obama in 2008 and 2012. These “Pivot Counties” were located in 34 states, with IA having the most such counties, 31 (Leip, “Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections”). The Dubuque area swung from 56%-43% Obama to 58%-37% Trump (docs.google.com/spreadsheets). The IA 58th HD is part of IA’s 1st Congressional District (CD). The IA 1st CD is an extremely swingy area. It has an anemic current Cook PVI, Partisan Voting Index, of D+1 (Cook, 4/07/17). The IA 1st went from 56%-43% Obama in 2012, to 49%-45% Trump in 2016 (Presidential Election Results). From 2003-2019, this area has had four different Congressmen, two Dems and two GOPers. In 2018, Democrat Abby Finkenauer defeated GOP Cong. Rod Blum by five points (116th Cong. CQ Early Guide). IA itself became a “Pivot State,” in 2016. After voting for Obama in 2008 and 2012 by nine and six points respectively, it flipped to Trump by 9.4 percentage points. IA was part of the rural America/Rust Belt region that in 2016 turned on Hillary and her fellow Democrats (See CQ Political Almanac 14, nytimes.com, 8/01/17).

Although born in NY, Andy McKean, has strong IA roots. His great-grandfather, John McKean, was a judge in Jones County, IA and served in the IA General Assembly. Andy McKean received his undergraduate degree from NY’s State University College at Oneonta and a Master of City Planning from the University of Rhode Island. In 1974, he obtained his law degree from the University of Iowa (votesmart.org). McKean was a member of the GOP from 1978-2019. He served in the IA House of Representatives from 1979-1993 (23rd HD , 1979-1983, 44th HD, 1983-1993). He served in the IA Senate’s 28th District from 1993-2003. McKean returned to the IA House in 2017 (legis.iowa.gov, iowastartingline.com, 4/23/19). McKean was the owner and operator of the Shaw House Bed and Breakfast and a University of IA Graduate School Instructor. In addition to being a member of the Jones County Bar Society and Jones County Historical Society, he is a square dance caller (votesmart.org).

McKean’s legislative record for a GOPer was fairly moderate. He was the only GOPer on a committee to vote “No” on a bill that would revamp who is on the commission that selects judicial nominations for the IA Supreme Court and lower courts. This bill, according to McKean and Democrats, would have made selection to the IA courts more partisan (desmoinesregister.com, 4/23/19, Opsahi & Rodriguez). McKean had a 60% pro-environmental rating from the IA Sierra Club. He has a 55% rating from the NRA, low for a GOPer (votesmart.org).

McKean stated he was “concerned that the GOP has veered sharply to the right (desmoinesregister.com, Opsahi & Rodriguez, 4/23/19).” McKean sees the Democratic caucus as “more moderate, and that he will be able to find a role in the party.” He indicated he would “not appreciate some things in that caucus as well.” However, “I will continue to speak out for what I believe in. I look forward to that opportunity (desmoinesregister.com).” IA Democratic House Minority Leader Todd Prichard called his party, “a big tent, with a wide range of views and ideas.” Prichard welcomed McKean’s “experience and ideas as part of their caucus discussions (desmoinesregister.com, 4/23/19).” Again, the GOP has often called itself the party of the “big tent” as well as the “family values” party. However, those words, coming from “Team Red,” constitute complete nonsense with its extremist/Trump views and anti-choice/anti-health care views.

McKean is not alone in abandoning “Team Red” for the “Blue” side of the aisle. Since Donald took office, several GOPers have gone Democratic or left the party. Long-time GOP operative Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, withdrew from the GOP on 6/19/2018 over Donald’s policy of separating immigrant families. He called the Republican Party, “fully the party of Trump,” and labeled the GOP “corrupt, indecent, and immoral.” He became an Independent who aligns himself with the Democratic Party (yahoo.com, 6/20/18, “The Hill,”Gstalter, M.,6/20/18). Four-term San Diego, CA Assemblyman Brian Maienschein left the GOP in 1/2019 (KNSD, 1/24/19, sacbee.com, 1/24/19). In 12/2018, four female KS state lawmakers left the GOP citing Donald’s degrading comments about women and his “burn-it-all down attitude (washingtonpost.com, Flynn, M., 4/24/19).” A NJ GOP legislator went over to the “Blue” camp. In ME, GOP state Rep. Donald Marean became an Independent (Kos, Singer, 4/23/19). On 7/24/2018, Multnomah County, OR commissioner Lori Stegman changed her 40-year GOP affiliation to that of a Democrat. S. Korean-born Stegmann opposed the Trump GOP anti-women, anti-immigrant, and anti-minority rhetoric. Like others, Stegmann called the Democrats, a “big tent party (Seeoregonlive.com).”

IA currently has a GOP trifecta, with the Governor and both legislative houses in “Team Red’s” hands. With McKean’s defection, Democrats need to flip just four seats to take the IA House back in 2020 and have a voice in shaping legislation (dlcc.org, 4/28/19). Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) Chair Jessica Post, head of the group that helps Democrats win state legislative seats, stated that her committee would “have his (McKean’s) back in 2020 (desmoinesregister.com, Opsahi & Rodgriguez, 4/23/19).” After flipping to Donald in 2016, Iowa has soured on him. Since Trump took office in 2017, his net IA approval rating has decreased by 19 points (3/19, morningconsult.com). However, 81% of IA GOPers still approve of the job Donald’s doing, according to the Iowa Poll (desmoinesregister.com, 3/11/19). IA may be in play in the 2020 presidential race, but it will be a tough contest. True, then GOPer McKean won re-election in 2018 by an awesome 38% margin but as a Democrat in 2020, he will not have a “cake walk.” His swingy area favored GOP gubernatorial winner Kim Reynolds in 2018 by a 15% margin, and this region will probably not rapidly shift back toward the “Blue” side (twitter.com). In 2020, IA Democrats and independents must come out for McKean in droves to re-elect a courageous legislator and rebuke Demagogue Donald. Kudos, again, to IA’s McKean for joining the Republican exodus (Rexodus)!