Baltimore Loses House Judiciary Chairmanship After Drunk-Driving Arrest

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Boone state Rep. Chip Baltimore.

State Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, has been stripped of his chairmanship of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee following his arrest early Friday morning in Ames on charges of drunk driving and possessing a firearm while intoxicated.

The decision was made by House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, who previously admonished Baltimore after his arrest. In a statement Monday, she added: “Serving as a committee chairman is a privilege that requires a higher level of trust and responsibility. Drinking and driving is unacceptable behavior that endangers the lives of all Iowans who wish to travel our roads safely. Rep. Baltimore’s actions were clearly irresponsible, and he is being held accountable.”

As Bleeding Heartland first pointed out Friday and the Des Moines Register followed up on in an editorial Monday, Baltimore would likely have lost his permit to carry his Smith & Wesson pistol had it not been for a law passed in 2017 that he supported reducing the penalties for possessing a gun while drunk.

Bleeding Heartland also noted that in losing his committee chairmanship, Baltimore is being punished more harshly than two previous House Republicans caught driving drunk. Six months after then-state Rep. Erik Helland of Johnston was arrested in 2010, he was selected as majority whip. When then-state Rep. Greg Forristall of Macedonia was arrested, he didn’t lose his chairmanship of the House Education Committee until the next year — likely for unrelated reasons. And in the state Senate, Jeff Lamberti, an Ankeny Republican, was elected chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission two months after he was nailed for driving while over twice the legal limit.

Long before she became governor, Kim Reynolds was also twice arrested for driving drunk, which she’s turned into a redemption story as she tours the state, claiming she’s been sober for the past 16 years. She has offered her “thoughts and prayers” to Baltimore.

House Majority Whip Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, will replace Baltimore as chairman of the Judiciary Committee for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session.

Baltimore will remain on the committee. Asked by the Register if he would seek re-election following his arrest, he demurred. “That’s a decision that I’m not even contemplating at this point in time,” he said. “I’ve got other things that I need to take care of first. First and foremost, obviously, I’ve got to get the legal matters taken care of. But in terms of the Legislature, my goal is to ensure a smooth transition of the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee over to Rep. Nunn and work with him closely to make sure that, you know, he’s up to speed and prepared.”

On the day before Baltimore’s arrest, Democrat David Weaver, a farmer from Rippey in southeastern Greene County, announced his bid for the incumbent’s seat.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.