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Kettering says ‘it is time’ to retire from Senate
LAKE VIEW — State Sen. Steve Kettering says he will not seek re-election next November, creating what amounts to an open seat for a new district that includes Carroll County and a vast swath of western Iowa.
“Fourteen years is enough,” said Kettering, a Lake View Republican. “I actually considered not running last time so it was a fairly easy call.”Kettering, now 68 years old, will be 69 at the end of 2012. He said he is healthy and that age didn’t factor into his decision.
“It was just time,” Kettering said. “I’ve always believed in a citizen legislature. I think fresh ideas need to come in.”
Kettering did say the atmosphere in Iowa politics is more challenging and rife with partisanship today than in his first years in Des Moines.
“It appears bravado and show have overcome substance in a lot of cases,” Kettering said.
The ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Republican whip, Kettering was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1998 and was elected via special election to the Iowa Senate in January 2003 following Congressman Steve King’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Serving the citizens of Iowa has truly been an honor, and I will forever treasure all of the opportunities I have had to represent my constituents,” said Kettering, who is president of Farmers Savings Bank in Lake View. “I remain ever confident that Iowa’s best days are still yet ahead because of our wonderful people and welcoming communities.”
In the Senate, Kettering has always represented Carroll County, which he would have continued to do under the new post-census boundaries signed into law — should he have opted to run for re-election and won.
Kettering resides in Senate District 6 that includes Carroll, Sac, Buena Vista, Audubon counties and the eastern part of Crawford County.
Republicans have a decided advantage in the four full counties with 32 percent of the active 38,989 registered voters compared with 27 percent for Democrats. Independents are the largest contingent at 41 percent.
In Crawford County, Republicans have a 32 percent to 30 percent advantage over Democrats — with independents representing 38 percent of the active electorate. But the Crawford County portion of District 6 does not include Denison, which gives the Republicans a greater edge.
There are no sitting state senators living in District 6 territory other than Kettering.
State Rep. Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake) is one possible candidate for the Senate seat. He did not return a call as of presstime today. State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer (D-Manilla) resides in Senate District 6 but said he is likely to seek re-election to the House.
“I’m planning on staying in the House, but the door is never closed,” Muhlbauer said.
Carroll County Ambulance Service director Bill Fish, a Republican, said he is considering a Statehouse run and has examined both House and Senate opportunities but is leaning more toward the former.
Republican Carroll County Supervisor Mark Beardmore, who has in the past openly expressed interest in serving in the Statehouse, said family considerations will prevail in 2012 and that he will likely seek re-election to his county office.
“I’d have to have a meteor strike me” to enter the Senate race, Beardmore said.
Former Audubon County Republican Party chairwoman Kathleen Parris — who has worked as a field staffer for President George W. Bush and presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) as well as former U.S. Rep. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa) — has been mentioned by Iowa GOP leaders as potentially a strong candidate for the Senate seat with Kettering’s departure.
But like Beardmore, Parris, 49, and a member of the Audubon County Republican Central Committee, said considerations as a parent have to come first in her life now and that she will not be a candidate for the State Senate.
Kettering will finish out his current term, which expires in January 2013. The upcoming session, which begins in January 2012, will be his last.
The City of Carroll — which will be the dominant economic force in the new district — has not been represented by one of its own residents in the Iowa Senate in about 40 years, since former State Sen. Art Neu (R-Carroll) left to become lieutenant governor in 1973. Following that, Carroll was represented by State Sen. Karl Nolin (D-Ralston), State Sen. Bill Hutchins (D-Audubon), State Sen. Al Sorensen (D-Boone), State Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone) and Kettering.