MUSCATINE, Iowa — State Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, isn’t up for re-election until 2014.
So he’s spending some time this month campaigning across the state for his fellow Democrats, including Muscatine firefighter Chris Brase, who seeks to unseat Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, R-Dixon, in the 46th District.
In the coming months, Muscatine County residents can expect to see more of Dvorsky, 64. Redistricting has shifted the boundaries of his senate district to include the city of Wilton.
Dvorsky, who’s married to Sue Dvorsky, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party since 2010, has chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee since 2005.
He said Democrats have a “huge interest” in maintaining their majority in the Senate, where they hold a 26-24 advantage. Dvorsky said he expects that majority to increase to 28-22 as a result of the Nov. 6 election.
“In our view, we stopped a lot of goofy legislation” that passed the House in 2012, a chamber where Republicans hold a 60-40 majority. Providing Democrats don’t take control in the House, “we hope to continue to do that,” he said.
And Dvorsky hopes to maintain his chairmanship of one of the Senate’s most important committees. If Republicans gain control of the Senate, the best Dvorsky can hope for is to be the committee’s ranking member — the most senior member of the minority party.
It’s not 24/7 fighting at the Capitol, of course. Dvorsky said he and House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, spoke some time ago together at a Rotary Club meeting in Linn County.
“He said that if he and I could just sit down and work on the budget together, we could probably do it,” Dvorksy said.
Although the Revenue Estimating Conference — which sets parameters for how large next year’s state budget can grow — won’t release its next estimate until December, Dvorsky said state revenues will be up significantly, with about $1 billion in what he called “our so-called surplus.”
Among his spending priorities will be K-12 education, which received zero percent allowable growth this year, as well as other state services, including the corrections system.
“We barely have enough (funding) for it not to be unsafe in our prison system,” said Dvorsky, who himself had a long career in community corrections. “They’ve lost 700 full-time employees, most of them guards.”
While he predicted victory in Iowa for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 6, Dvorsky said he hopes the building of Democrats’ “largest grassroots organization in history” will help down-ballot candidates, too.
“I get a little discouraged when people focus on the President and the Congress,” he said. “(State legislators) have an even bigger impact than they do. Look at the things people care about: education, roads, etc.
“I think Congress is broken. They have that silly filibuster rule in the Senate [where it takes 60 votes to pass legislation of any substance]. We don’t have any of that in Des Moines. We disagree, but we get things done.
“Speaker Paulsen and even the governor’s office understand that we are there to get things done.”
Asked how it is to be married to a high-profile person, Dvorsky said his wife “just kind of fell into her job” as state party chair.
“All kinds of people — even Republicans — ask me to say thanks for them for the way she’s handled things,” he said. “There’s an obvious time to be partisan, and a time not to be. She does a terrific job bringing people together, and that’s important.”
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