Rep. Steve King came out swinging in this week’s forum in Spencer, prompting all but one of his GOP primary challengers in Iowa’s fourth congressional district race to say they believe he was misquoted in The New York Times and further explain why they are running against him.
“They can’t have anything else going on or they wouldn’t be here,” said King, who is seeking a tenth term. “They would have defended me instead. But instead, they believe the New York Times and they want you to believe The New York Times.”
King, the incumbent seeking a tenth term, has spoke out against the Times ever since he was quoted in a January 2019 article as saying: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
House Republicans removed King from assignments on the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees due to that comment. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, minority leader, said King’s past comments also factored into the decision.
In March 2019, King published a memo that he said shows he was misquoted in The New York Times story.
At the candidate forum on Monday, which was put on by the Spencer Daily Reporter and Spencer Radio Group, King delivered an opening statement in which he claimed his opponents believe the Times, not him. He added that he has yet to find a “credible Republican” in the fourth district that has told him they believe the Times accurately quoted him in its story.
“No legitimate person believes The New York Times,” King said, his voice increasing in volume. “That is why we have this primary right now is because The New York Times has thrown the wrench into the works and political opportunists have decided that they want to jump into this thing hoping that I am wounded, but the truth shall set you free.”
King compared his experience to that of Gen. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians but has since sought to withdraw his plea. The Justice Department has moved to drop Flynn’s case.
“Michael Flynn went through a terrible, terrible ordeal for three years or more. He lost his home, 6 million dollars, but you know, the truth came out,” King said. “The truth came out on me, too, it just hasn’t been exonerated yet. My time will come around. And y’all need to know this: You’re running on The New York Times and you’re running on no committee assignments.”
Toward the end of the forum, King said that on April 20 he and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Republican minority leader, “reached an agreement” that McCarthy would advocate to the Republican Steering Committee for King’s committee assignments to be restored.
A spokesperson for McCarthy told Iowa Starting Line on Wednesday that “Congressman King’s past comments cannot be exonerated” but that “he will have the opportunity to make his case.”
Several GOP lawmakers, including some who sit on the Steering Committee, have said King will not regain his committee assignments.
3 of 4 opponents say don’t believe NYT
But King’s opening comments caused three of King’s four opponents to say they believe King, not the Times, and explain why they are running against him.
Bret Richards, CEO of Country Stores from Irwin, was the first to respond.
“Congressman King, I don’t believe The New York Times,” Richards said. “I just think our republic’s made better when we exercise our right to our representation and have people run against each other. I think I have been sharpened and I think I may have sharpened Congressman King, Jeremy Taylor and Steve Reeder by this. It’s not necessarily a question about believing The New York Times, it’s just the matter of fact that we live in a republic and our voters have choices.”
Steve Reeder, a commercial real estate developer and broker from Arnolds Park, was the next to provide his take on the matter.
“We can’t trust the media,” he said. “Steve King knows we can’t trust the media. They will spread lies and rumors for a number of reasons. They will spread them to take down our president and they will spread them to take down conservative Republicans.”
Jeremy Taylor, a US Army National Guard major and chaplain and Sioux City schools energy and environmental specialist, said he also believes King over the Times.
Taylor, who is from Sioux City, later said he is not running “for selfish ambition or selfish gain.”
“I’m in this to help restore our historic rights and values that which we hold dearly and that which we prize in our constitution so that our children and our children’s children recognize the country that we seek to leave to them,” he said.
King, Taylor attack Feenstra
Only Iowa Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull remained silent on whether he believes King was accurately quoted by the Times.
In his opening remarks, Feenstra focused on his record in the Iowa Senate.
“I’m running for Congress in the fourth district because we need a seat at the table. We need an effective conservative that has (gotten) proven results. To me, this election is about real results, not about rhetoric.”
Feenstra has served in the state senate for 12 years.
“I have led on numerous conservative victories and numerous policies,” he said. “Working with Gov. Reynolds, I passed the largest income tax reduction bill ever in state history. I’ve also passed and wrote property tax limitation bills, both in 2013 and in 2019. I delivered on the pro-life movement. I wrote the life at conception bill.”
Feenstra voiced his opposition to Planned Parenthood and his support of Second Amendment rights. He also mentioned his support of Iowa’s ban on sanctuary cities, which he said “delivered on protecting the right against illegal immigrants.”
Feenstra said he’ll work with President Donald Trump to build the wall, defund Planned Parenthood “across our country” and defend Trump’s tax cuts.
“Our district and President Trump deserve effective leaders in Congress,” he said.
But Feenstra spent much of the evening under attack from King and Taylor.
King was the first to criticize Feenstra. The first line of attack was in response to a question about campaign finance.
Feenstra has out-raised the other candidates by a wide margin. He raised $721,427 in 2019 and $122,871 in the first quarter of 2020, while King raised $263,322 and $42,917, respectively, as reported by the Sioux City Journal.
During this election cycle, Taylor has raised $152,779, Richards has loaned his campaign $231,900 and Reeder has raised $35,787.
King took issue with some of the groups supporting Feenstra, noting Feenstra is supported by the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC.
“They are known as the RINO PAC. You don’t bother to say the Republican Main Street Partnership,” King said. “They are the people that killed the repeal, the full 100% rip-it-out-by-the-roots repeal of Obamacare. They’re the people that are advocating for red flag laws, which is why you heard him say he’s opposed to red flags because he’s endorsed by a PAC that is supporting red flag laws.”
King also attacked Feenstra for touting support from National Right to Life, saying the group “battled against the heartbeat bill, not only in Washington, but in the states around the union.”
“They say that they are a pro-life organization,” King said. “They’re not.”
Feenstra defended his supporters, noting that of the 1,900 contributions he has received, 80% came from Iowans and 1,100 came from donors in the fourth district.
“If you look at who I am and who’s supporting me, I’m a principled, constitutional conservative that has a proven record of getting things done,” Feenstra said. “I am supported by Governor Branstad; Bob Vander Plaats; the (Iowa House) Representative of this area, Megan Jones. I am endorsed by organizations like the Republican Jewish Coalition, the National Right to Life, which I am proud of, and many others.”
Feenstra added that the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC has given money to Iowa Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernest, and retired Iowa Rep. Tom Latham.
“They came to me because they were excited about what we did to help main street for deregulation, to lower taxes,” Feenstra said of the Main Street Partnership.
King was not the only candidate to press Feenstra on campaign finance. Taylor challenged voters to “follow the money.”
“As far as endorsements, I would say to Randy, respectfully, we were born at night, some of us, but not last night,” Taylor said. “And so, if you follow the money, you’ll know exactly the supporters Randy Feenstra has are many of them never-Trump folks.”
Taylor used the moment in the forum to separate himself from both Feenstra and King.
“If you believe that it’s time to move on from Congressman King, respectfully, you will have in me a constitutionalist who’s beholden to no one else than the fourth district constituents, not the PACs that support your legislation, and not the moderates of our party, and not the ones who are the never-Trump wing of the Republican party,” he said.
Conservaitve chops challenged
The winner of the June 2 primary will take on Democrat JD Scholten in the general election in November. Scholten fell just shy of defeating King in 2018.
Only Taylor mentioned Scholten by name when he recalled that the fourth district seat “was almost lost” in the last election cycle. Still, each of the Republican candidates made their cases for why they should be the nominee.
Reeder shared his campaign’s “simple message” of “limited government, more faith and more freedom.”
“This is a message that I hear resonating across all of Iowa and the fourth district, and I want to take that to Washington,” he said.
Richards leaned on a neighborly appeal.
“It’s time we change Washington before it changes us,” he said. “In our communities, we take charge, we solve problems and we create opportunities. In the past sixteen months, traveling over 70,000 miles to 215 campaign events, including the greatest county fair right here in Spencer, I’ve met a lot of people I respect and trust. They tell me that I remind them of someone they know.”
King, Taylor and Feenstra focused more on whose conservative chops actually measured up.
Taylor separated himself from both Feenstra, who he said does not back up words with action, and King, who along with other House Republicans was not able to accomplish priorities when the US House, Senate and White House were all under GOP control.
“Republicans didn’t stand for life, didn’t secure the border when they had the chance, couldn’t cut a billion dollars on four-and-a-half trillion dollars of spending and didn’t repeal Obamacare,” Taylor said. “That’s why we have to have constitutionalists who don’t just campaign as conservatives but actually go and do what they say.”
Toward the end of the forum, Taylor emphasized why he is running against King.
“I do want to say that I appreciate Congressman King’s service and I hope that my tone and tenor in this race has honored his service, while making the case at the same time that I believe that it’s time, and it’s time for a constitutionalist who can lead,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Feenstra reiterated the conservative priorities he supports, but added that Iowans in the fourth district need representation.
“I’m running for Congress because we in the fourth district need a seat at the table. A seat that can be proven effective and have a conservative voice. To me, this election is about real results. Real results and not campaign rhetoric.”
Feenstra also stressed his support for President Trump.
“Alongside Trump, we will build a wall, we will secure our borders, we will buy and build American, we will defund Planned Parenthood, we will protect Trump’s tax cuts, we will be unwavering defending the Second Amendment and going against all red flag laws,” he said. “Our district, President Trump deserve effective leaders in Congress.”
King used his closing statement to drive home why he believes Iowans in the fourth district again should re-elect him.
“This is a swamp in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I’ve been under pressure because I have taken the swamp on. If you want to look at Donald Trump and see what he’s facing, I’m facing the same thing on a bit smaller scale.
“But you know this: I have never let you down. Not on any matter of principle, not on anything that has to do with the platform of the Republican Party. I have run to the sound of the guns every time and I’ve not only walked towards the fire, I’ve walked through the fire and I’m deeply tempered by that experience. I can face those people down because I’m right and they’re wrong – and they know it by now.”