Wes Breckenridge has resigned from his post as representative of Iowa House District 29, leaving behind him a county whose majority voter base has been gradually swinging in favor of Republicans the past few election cycles and could likely flip the seat historically held by a Democrat.
The Newton native and retired police officer was first elected in 2017 and was set to carry out his third term in the Iowa House. However, Breckenridge has since accepted a job as assistant director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, which he says comes into conflict with his duties as a legislator.
“A lot of state agencies put forth departmental bills and legislation, whether it be code cleanup or legislation that can assist in providing the training or standards for law enforcement academy,” Breckenridge told Newton News in a phone interview. “So I think from that area it kind of puts it in conflict with that.”
In an appreciation letter to his constituents, Breckenridge wrote that with his new duties and responsibilities at the ILEA “it is not possible to serve in both capacities and do them justice.” Although he is stepping down as a state representative, he will still be living in Jasper County.
Breckenridge hopes his constituents can understand why he resigned. There aren’t many jobs he would have left the Iowa Legislature for, he said. But to work for the ILEA and have a chance “to make a positive impact on the officers” going out to communities was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“Public service has been my passion, but law enforcement and education have been two of my major passions, also,” he said. “This is something that involves both of those by educating our future law enforcement officers. It’s an opportunity to get involved in the passion I have in this area.”
Effective Sept. 10, Breckenridge will no longer serve House District 29, which covers most of Jasper County. A special election will be held in the near future to fill the vacancy. Michelle Smith, chairperson of the Jasper County Democratic Party, said that will be facilitated by the governor’s office.
Iowa Code states the governor shall order a special election no later than five days from the date the vacancy exists, giving no less than 40 days’ notice of the election. If Breckenridge had resigned while the general assembly was in session, the governor would give at least 18 days’ notice.
Although Smith wouldn’t name any potential candidates, she is confident the party “will be victorious” in maintaining the seat. She also acknowledged Breckenridge was a strong, likeable candidate for the party, and she hopes the next nominee will carry some of the same traits.
“He was a go-getter and very well-known in the community,” Smith said. “He would listen and talk to anybody, and I think we need that in whoever we seek out to be our nominee. They need to be willing to listen and have a conversation with somebody who doesn’t think like them.”
Currently, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office says the number of active registered Republicans in Jasper County (8,052) outweighs the Democrats (7,285) by more than 760 voters. Knowing this, Smith said the Democrats shouldn’t take it for granted, noting the special election will be a challenge.
“It’s gonna take old fashioned knocking on doors, phone calls — really getting the message out,” Smith said.
Thad Nearmyer, chairperson of the Jasper County Republican Party, knows the local GOP has a good shot of taking the seat, particularly after the close finish in the 2020 race that got Breckenridge re-elected. Coupled with the amount of registered Republicans in the county, Nearmyer thinks this could be it.
“We think it’s ready to be plucked,” he said. “(It’s the) best opportunity we’ve had since last November. I really thought we had that one. We had worked a lot harder because they sat out for COVID a lot more than we did. Since then, the numbers have gone even more in our direction.”
Like Smith, Nearmyer wouldn’t name any potential candidates vying for the open seat.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org