DES MOINES - Senate Democrats, their numbers at the highest level ever, on Sunday rewarded top leaders with another two years in office and vowed to tackle a state budget that's struggling because of the economic slowdown.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, and Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, won new two-year terms without opposition.
Some projections show lawmakers heading into next year's session with a shortfall of up to $600 million because of spending already on the books and a drop in state revenues in the face of tough financial times.
However, Gronstal said the state is in a good position to tackle its economic troubles.
"Thanks to our work during the last two years Iowa's state budget is in much better shape than those of other states," he said. "We will make the tough choices required to keep state government financially sound while continuing to move forward on jobs, education and health care."
Democrats now control the Senate by a 32-18 margin.
Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, is in the midst of a re-count, but has been re-elected by fellow Democrats to another two years as president pro tem of the Senate.
Democratic Sens. Stacy Appel of Ackworth, Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, Jack Hatch of Des Moines, Bill Heckroth of Waverly and Amanda Ragan of Mason City, were elected assistant leaders. Sen. Tom Courtney of Burlington won another term as majority whip.
Democrats in both chambers of the Iowa Legislature have rewarded their leaders for the strong election showing this month.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, won new terms as Democrats in that chamber expanded their majority to 56-44.
In the House, Republicans ousted former Minority Leader Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, as the GOP again lost seats in that chamber.
The same scenario could play out Monday when Senate Republicans meet to pick a new leader.
Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck, R-Sioux city, said he wouldn't be surprised if he faces a challenge from members concerned about dwindling GOP numbers.
Kibbie, the Senate president, said Democrats scored a victory on Nov. 4 because they ran on their financial record.
"Our incumbents were re-elected because Iowa voters responded to their record of responsible budgeting and keeping their promises," he said.
Though both parties have met to elect new floor leaders, they plan to gather again next month to start discussing issues they will tackle when they convene in January.