Steve King's Iowa constituents split on support after racist comments

Image: Rep. Steve King outside of the Capitol in 2012.
Rep. Steve King outside of the Capitol in 2012. Copyright Chris Maddaloni CQ-Roll Call file
Copyright Chris Maddaloni CQ-Roll Call file
By Maura Barrett and Vaughn Hillyard with NBC News Politics
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Some voters in his district are questioning whether to continue to support the longtime congressman, others are standing behind him.


FORT DODGE, Iowa — Just two months after U.S. Rep. Steve King narrowly won re-election for his ninth term, some voters in his home district are questioning their consistent support of the longtime congressman after Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments and Democratic members prepare to potentially censure him.

"I wouldn't give him the time of day, now," said LaVerne Dass, a lifelong Republican voter in Fort Dodge who helped King narrowly pull off a 3.5 percentage point victory in November with his vote. "If you have to talk like that, go home, go in the bathroom with the doors closed and say it — no place for that in Washington."

Dass said he felt King had done "some good things" but followed: "We elected them to run the business. If they do a good job, they'll stay in office. If they don't, we have to fight to get them out." He suggested voters should "fire" King if he does not choose to resign.

King's recent comments to the New York Times, questioning when terms like "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization" became offensive, are not the first racist or provocative statements to come from the congressman. In 2017, King tweeted: "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." He also has long proposed a border wall with electric barbed wire on top. "We do it with livestock all the time," he remarked in 2006.

But King carries political weight in his critical home state, a coveted political chip in the GOP's presidential selection process. He campaigned alongside President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Iowa last fall during his re-election bid. Neither Trump nor Pence has commented on King's future despite having heaped praise on him last year.

Now, the local editorial boards of the Des Moines Register and the Sioux City Journal are calling for his resignation. And the Fort Dodge Messenger rescinded its 2018 endorsement of King, writing, in part, that it "should have pondered more carefully King's pattern of making outrageous statements."

Jeannie Small, a Republican voter from Humboldt, thinks King should resign, telling NBC News, "I don't think people have the confidence in him now. He says he didn't mean what he said. But he's done himself damage."

But Mary Grim did not find King's racist comments offensive.

"People who think it's offensive need to get a damn backbone and shut the hell up," Grim said. She contended that an "invasion" is taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Scott Wolff also believes the congressman should hold his ground.

"Everybody slips up a little bit," Wolff said. "I don't think he really meant what he said. And he's trying to tell the people that. I hope that's the way it is."

King has represented his northwest Iowa district for more than 18 years. If King chooses to run again in 2020, he will have at least two Republican primary opponents--Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra and Bret Richards.

Feenstra's campaign announced on Thursday that it had raised more than $100,000 since launching ten days ago.

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