Senator Takes Heat For “Quit Whining” Remark

Ocheyedan, Iowa — A northwest Iowa state senator is taking heat after an email exchange earlier this week.

David Johnson 2015
Iowa State Senator David Johnson (R – Ocheyedan)

A high school science teacher in Waterloo sent an email to Republicans in the Iowa Senate, outlining his concerns about state funding for public schools and he was told to “quit whining” by one of them. Vaughn Gross had just ordered supplies for the coming school year when he found out Governor Branstad vetoed nearly 56 million dollars in funding for public schools. Gross then sent a mass email to 23 Republican senators, asking them to support a special session to boost school finances.

Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan replied, saying Gross lacked the courage to reveal where he was from and he told the teacher to “quit whining.” Gross posted the exchange on his Facebook page. He says, “I was surprised by kind of the tone. I didn’t think it was actually him and then gave him a post and, you know, gave him a chance to reply and he said it was him and wasn’t really apologetic about it,” Gross says. “That was pretty shocking.”

Senator Johnson says he gets a lot of unsigned email and he stands by his “quit whining” message. He calls it a “test” to see if the email was genuine — saying, “Sometimes, in order to have a constructive conversation — especially about education, you have to put your foot down and I did,” Johnson says.

Johnson and Gross had an email exchange on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. It was “much more civil” according to the teacher.

(as said) “Had a decent exchange of some ideas,” Gross says. “I mean obviously we have some areas of disagreement, but it was straight-forward and kind of what I expected the first time.”

The senator says the two had a “constructive” conversation, but Johnson says he’s getting plenty of inappropriate messages from others.

(as said) “I’ve been called so many vulgarities,” Johnson says. “I did not engage in vulgar, obscene language.”

Some of those came via email and, while Johnson isn’t on Facebook, Johnson says he’s been told what’s been posted there. Johnson has been a member of the legislature since 1999.

Johnson serves Senate District 1, which covers Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Clay, and Palo Alto counties.

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