Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom will not seek reelection in 2022

The six-term senator will finish his tenure in the Iowa Legislature at the end of 2022.


Jenna Galligan

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City answers a question during the Eastern Iowa Legislative Forum hosted by The Daily Iowan at the Iowa City Public Library on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. The forum surrounded topics including education, state budget, medicare, and environmental issues. (Jenna Galligan/The Daily Iowan)

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, will not seek reelection to his seat in 2022.

“I am deeply grateful for the trust, guidance, and strong support I have received from the people of Iowa City and Johnson County,” Bolkcom said in a press release Thursday.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Bolkcom said his 30 years as an elected official in Iowa has made him, and the state, ready to hear from new leadership. 

“I think it’s time to encourage new people to come forward to help take the state in a more progressive direction as Democrats,” he said. 

Bolkcom said in his press release that when he first ran in 1998, Republicans controlled the Legislature, but the Democrats carried on a theme for that election to “rotate the crops” and push a more progressive course. 

From 2007 to 2016 Democrats had a majority in the Senate, if not both chambers, and for that, Bolkcom said he is grateful. 

“For six years, we blocked today’s ferocious, ongoing, Republican attacks on Iowa workers, reproductive rights, health care, environment, and public education,” Bolkcom said. 

Bolkcom has been a member of the Iowa Senate since 1999 and before his time in the statehouse, he served as a Johnson County supervisor for six years. 

He represents Iowa’s 43rd Senate District, which covers most of Iowa City. In 2022, Bolkcom, who lives on Oakes Drive in Iowa City, would be in Iowa’s newly-drawn 45th Senate District, which covers much of the same area.

Bolkcom said he looks forward to being able to carry forward the relationships he made with many members of the Iowa City community. 

The senator said the parties in the statehouse used to be able to make bipartisan decisions more often but as time has gone on, but he said the political atmosphere has become more polarizing. 

“Probably the biggest change was just the polarization on many, many issues that Democrats and Republicans used to agree on,” Bolkcom said. 

After his last year in the Senate, Bolkcom said he doesn’t know what his next steps will be, but he hopes to use what he has learned during his time as an elected official when he moves on to something new. 

“Well, the big thank you to Iowa City and Johnson County for giving me this incredible opportunity to serve … It’s probably the best political job in the country,” Bolkcom said. 

Bolkcom is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and works on the Human Resources, Judiciary, Rules and Administration, and Ways and Means committees. He was previously an assistant majority leader when Democrats controlled the Senate.

Minority Leader Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, called Bolkcom a close friend, dear colleague, and a relentless champion for a better Iowa in a press release. 

“I know that choosing to bring his decades-long career in public service to an end was not easy, but I appreciate his decision and am grateful that he is encouraging a new generation of Iowans to get involved in state government,” he said. “His experience, his hard work, and his commitment to the people of Iowa will be missed, and I wish him all my best.”