Democrats Call for Steve King’s Resignation
It’s possible that King will step down. (His office didn’t respond to a request for comment; neither did House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s disciplined King in the past, or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi). But it doesn’t seem likely: The Iowa congressman has endured similar criticism throughout his tenure in office, during which he’s made many racist and otherwise incendiary remarks. As I’ve reported before, people in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District have supported him all along. The district is rural; it’s very religious; and it’s mostly socially conservative. People here care “about abortion and guns and freedom,” Art Cullen, the editor of The Storm Lake Times, a small newspaper in the district, told me in a July interview. On those subjects, at least, they’re in sync with King.
The congressman’s closest electoral challenge came in last year’s midterms, when the Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former minor-league baseball player and paralegal, lost to King by just 3 percentage points. He performed 24 points better against King in the ruby-red district than Hillary Clinton did against Donald Trump in 2016.
Scholten announced last Monday that he’s running against King again in 2020. While the campaign isn’t likely to be easy, he could have an even better shot this time, with wider name recognition following his 2018 bid and with more national attention on the race.
In response to King’s comments today, other Democratic presidential candidates—including Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former housing secretary Julian Castro—emphasized beating King in 2020. “Hey @JDScholten,” Castro wrote on Twitter. “I’m ready for another Winnebago road trip—it’s time to unseat this bigot.”
If Democrats want to win the seat, they should want King in the general-election race. If he resigns, or loses the Republican primary, it’ll make the party’s chances of flipping the district that much harder. King’s candidacy has taken several hits in recent months, in ways that could be advantageous for Scholten. In January, congressional Republicans removed the congressman from his seat on the House Agriculture and Judiciary committees as punishment for comments he made to The New York Times about white supremacy. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” King told the Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” (King maintains he was “misquoted” by the Times, and even alleged today that there is a deeper plot by political insiders to remove him from power.)
Since then, King has lost other institutional support in his party. “He definitely hemorrhaged support from many traditional institutional Republican groups” after he was stripped of his committee assignments, Douglas Burns, a journalist and co-owner of the Fourth District’s Carroll Daily Times Herald, told me in July. The National Republican Congressional Committee has pledged not to involve itself in King’s reelection, and so far, his fundraising numbers aren’t as solid as usual.