Iowa’s longest-serving Republican switches parties, citing President Trump as reason

DES MOINES, Iowa - State Rep. Andy McKean is currently the longest serving Republican in the Iowa Legislature, or at least he was until he announced he is switching parties. McKean, of Anamosa, says after returning to the legislature in 2016 following a 15-year break from politics, he found the statehouse a different place.

“The legislature is considerably more partisan and regimented than it used to be … I might have limped along attempting to work within my caucus for what I felt was best for the people I represent if it hadn’t been for another factor," said McKean.

He says that factor is President Donald Trump.

“He 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 the time when we're attempting to discourage bullying, his frequent disregard for the truth, and has a willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearance, ethnicity or disability … 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,” said McKean.

McKean started his career in the statehouse back in 1978. He says he understands there will be blowback, but that he hopes his supporters in Jones County can see beyond a party title.

“I hope the people back home will know I'm still the same Andy McKean I always was, I just changed my party affiliation. I'll still be working for the very same goals and priorities I've had for many years in public service,” he said.

McKean still considers himself fiscally conservative and says he will be a moderate Democrat. Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer issued this response to his announcement:

"I respect Rep. McKean’s decision and wish him the best. This will not distract us from moving forward with the conservative agenda that Iowans have tasked us with. As a majority of 53 strong Republicans, we are committed to completing our work and wrapping up the session."

Meanwhile, Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann issued this statement in a series of tweets:

"When Rep. McKean ran in 2016, he had no problem riding to victory on Pres. Trump’s coattails. He’s about to feel the headwind of Pres. Trump’s support in District 58. When he was running for office a mere five months ago, he made a commitment to the voters of District 58, running on the Republican platform.  Today, he has violated the trust of the voters of his district…It’s disappointing that he felt the need to deceive Iowans - if the people of District 58 can`t trust him on something as simple and fundamental as what party he belongs to, how can they trust him on any issue."

McKean has broken ranks with his Republican colleagues on several issues recently, including how Iowa selects its judges.

McKean says while he feels both the Republican Party has changed, so has he. What he says hasn’t changed is his standards for who sits in the Oval Office.

“Unacceptable behavior should be called out for what it is and Americans of all parties should insist on something far better in the leader of their country and the free world,” said McKean.

McKean ended his press conference by once again acknowledging the feelings of the Republican Caucus.

“I am also all too aware that my decision will be a disappointment to many friends and colleagues who have supported me over the years. However, the time comes when you have to be true to yourself and follow the dictates of your conscience. For me, that time has come,” McKean said.

McKean says he intends to seek reelection in his House seat as a Democrat and hopes to use his friendships across the aisle as a mechanism for bipartisanship in the years to come.