Iowans Send White Supremacist Rep Back to Congress

Three of Iowa’s four congressional districts went to Democrats on Tuesday, but Steve King managed to hold on to Iowa’s 4th.

Iowans Send White Supremacist Rep Back to Congress
U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Congress’ most openly white supremacist member will live to see another term. While three Democrats won their U.S. House elections in Iowa, Republican Steve King will continue to represent the state’s 4th Congressional District for the next two years.

King has come under serious scrutiny in recent weeks because of his associations with white nationalists and his frequent statements that mirror white supremacist language and ideology. The Iowa representative has a long trail of white nationalist ties and rhetoric:

The Iowa congressman met with leaders of the Nazi-linked Austrian Freedom Party two days before Trump’s inauguration, and he kept a Confederate flag in his local Iowa congressional office. More recently, King went out of his way to endorse a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto.

Among King’s many racist statements are claims that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” and that white people have “contributed more to civilization” than any other racial group. “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end,” King tweeted in 2016 while meeting with German nationalist Frauke Petry and Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Steve Stivers ultimately denounced King, tweeting, “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn [King’s] behavior.” Campaign donations and Independent expenditures backing the congressman barely trickled in, while outside groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars against him. The Des Moines Register and the Sioux City Journal endorsed King’s challenger, 38-year-old Democrat J.D. Scholen. After reporting by Sludge and other outlets on corporate PAC contributions to the King campaign, several companies stated that they’d refrain from donating to King’s future campaigns.

For the first time in six years, King faced a strong challenge, and this time he had little institutional support.

But it turned out that King’s racist statements and white nationalist ties weren’t enough for him to lose his job. Iowa’s 4th is an extremely white district—92 percent, according to the 2017 American Community Survey—whiter, if only slightly, than the other three congressional districts in the state. King has represented the district for 15 years. Some constituents, including farmers, have remained loyal to King, a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

Now that King has secured another term, it remains to be seen whether the corporations and trade groups that rescinded their support for King—AT&T, Black Hills Energy, Intel, NCTA—the Internet and Television Association, Land O’Lakes, Purina and Smithfield Foods—will stay true to their pledges. And how the Republican leadership will treat King and deal with his subcommittee chairmanship is anyone’s guess. Steve Stivers announced on Wednesday that he won’t seek another term as NRCC chairman, and Republicans will have a new House leader because Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring.

King isn’t the only far-right extremist in the GOP caucus who has openly professed ideas common among white supremacists opinions. Paul Gosar of Arizona, for example, has proven his severe anti-Muslim credentials, and Matt Gaetz of Florida invited a white nationalist to the State of the Union and recently promoted the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros was behind the migrant “caravan” that currently in southern Mexico just days before a neo-Nazi murdered 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The GOP generally “turns a blind eye to bigotry,” Robert S. McCaw, director of the Government Affairs Department at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, previously told Sludge.