Democratic state senator in Iowa resigns amid controversy over firefighter training program

February 15, 2019 by Matthew Boose

A Democrat senator resigned from the Iowa state Senate abruptly Thursday. Sen. Jeff Danielson sent a resignation letter to Iowa House and Senate leaders that did not give a reason for his departure.

However, the Cedar Falls Democrat and long-time fireman later explained to reporters that his resignation was connected with his decision to step down from the city’s fire department over a controversial public safety program that has now led 11 firefighters to quit.

Iowa Democrat resigns

Danielson sent a terse letter of resignation to Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer stating simply, “I resign my position as Iowa State Senator effective immediately.”

The Democrat represented Iowa’s Senate District 30, which covers part of Cedar Falls, Hudson, and Waterloo, since 2005. He served three and a half-terms.

Governor Kim Reynolds will likely call a special election to determine who will serve the rest of the Democrat’s unfinished four-year term, which he won in 2016. Senate minority leader Janet Petersen (D) said the Democrats were confident about retaining control.

“Democratic enthusiasm in Cedar Valley is strong. We are excited to run a robust campaign to keep this Senate seat in Democratic hands,” Petersen said.

However, Republicans could have a chance at picking up Danielson’s seat. His district has a competitive mix of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, according to the Des Moines Register. He won by a narrow 681 vote margin in 2012.

Resigned over training controversy

In interviews with Iowa media, Danielson said that his decision to leave the Senate was a direct consequence of his departure from the Cedar Falls fire department, which was prompted by a public safety program to cross-train police officers to work as firefighters. Danielson said he couldn’t stay with the fire department because of the program, which he said was unsafe and made it impossible for firemen to do their jobs.

“There is no future there for firefighters and I can’t make the Senate service work given that I have to raise my family and pay the bills,” he said in a statement to TV9.

He said that he would not be leaving the Senate if not for his decision to step down from the fire department.

“I would not be leaving the Senate if I were not leaving the firehouse,” Danielson told Iowa Starting Line. “I’m forever thankful to the Cedar Valley and the citizens who have supported me in my service both at the firehouse for 25 years and in the Senate for the last 15.”

He is the 11th firefighter to leave the department over the program in the last two years. The Democrat was with the fire department for more than 20 years and told KWWL his joint resignations were “the hardest decision I’ve ever made.” Danielson said he has another job lined up, but isn’t ready to give the details yet.