UPDATE: 4:00 p.m.
The top Republican in the Iowa Senate, Bill Dix, has resigned his positions as Majority Leader and state Senator, hours after compromising photos of him appeared on the political website Iowa Starting Line.
The photos showed Dix having drinks with and apparently kissing a female lobbyist at a Des Moines bar one evening earlier this month.
Some were calling for Dix’s resignation last year after a court approved a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement against Senate Republicans.
Now, roughly four hours after the photos appeared, Dix is leaving.
He consulted briefly Monday with his fellow GOP Senators, then released a letter announcing his resignation without comment.
In a statement, Senate President Jack Whitver approved of the resignation.
"I believe he made the right decision for himself and for his district, but most importantly, I believe he made the decision in the best interest of his family," Whitver wrote.
Dix is married and the father of three children.
In a statement, Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen implied that a romantic relationship between a powerful legislative leader and a lobbyist paid to try to get legislation passed was inappropriate.
“Because this involves Senator Dix and a lobbyist, there will be questions about the impact of this relationship on legislation,” Petersen said.
Petersen has been one of the harshest critics of Dix’s handling of the sexual harassment complaint that resulted in last year’s settlement.
“With Senator Dix’s resignation, Republican Senators have an opportunity to finally get it right and change a culture at the Iowa Capitol,” Petersen wrote. “Republican Senators have an obligation to elect a new leader who will take responsibility for the sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against former Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson by Republican Senators and staff.”
Anderson is the former Senate staffer who won the sexual harassment lawsuit. In court testimony, she described a toxic work environment among Senate Republicans.
Senate Republicans will elect a new leader on Wednesday.
Sen. Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) was in the brief meeting with Sen. Dix ahead of his resignation.
"It was somber,” Schneider said. “It was sad, but at the end of the day we all realize that we have a job to do."
“Senate Republicans will continue to move the policies Iowans elected us to pursue,” said Sen. Whitver.
Dix, a farmer from Shell Rock, served in the Iowa House from 1997 to 2007 and in the Senate since 2011. He became Majority Leader when Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 2016 election.
Before knowing many details about the online photos, at her weekly news conference Gov. Reynolds said she was disappointed in what she was hearing.
"Iowans hold their elected officials to a high standard,” Reynolds said. “They expect us to lead, and I expect to lead."
Follow Joyce Russell on twitter: @russell_ipr