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Congress Steve King

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks in January 2014 in Des Moines. A senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus is pushing formal punishment for King over his comments about white supremacy. On Jan. 14, Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush said he will introduce a censure resolution over King’s remarks to the New York Times.

A few days after the November elections, I ran into a friend of mine in a grocery store parking lot. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, so we chatted for a few moments.

Then the man said he had to cut the conversation short. He laughed and said, “I have to get home and continue calling friends and relatives all over the country and apologize for Iowa re-electing Steve King.”

If only it were a laughing matter.

King is serving his ninth term in Congress, has introduced 94 bills and none of them have gotten out of committee. Now, because of his most recent offensive comments, he has been stripped of all his committee assignments by the hierarchy of his own party. He is, in effect, a political eunuch.

Shortly after his last election, I wrote in this space about King’s amazing popularity with voters despite his inability to get anything accomplished in Congress and his penchant for saying outlandish things. I pointed out that King was a lot like President Trump. Both are masterful at calling attention to themselves by what they say and winning over voters who love their lack of “political correctness.”

In that column, I suggested both Trump and King probably believe what P.T. Barnum, the circus man, said when he evaluated his success a century ago: “There’s a sucker born every minute,” he said.

My point wasn’t that the voters were suckers but that Trump and King treat them as if they are.

Nonetheless, I got scalded in emails from King supporters. One, from a North Iowa public official, said he had known me for a long time and that I was showing my “liberal bias.” We are living in an age when if someone disagrees with your point of view, the greatest insult they can come up with is to call you either a liberal or a conservative as if those were synonyms for Satan.

With all of this as background and my disdain for King’s behavior well documented, I must tell you that I do not think he should resign. Like all of us, he has the constitutional right to express his opinions and, for that matter, has the constitutional right to say stupid things. It is not against the law.

Several Iowa newspapers have exercised their right to express their opinion in calling for him to resign. Some lawmakers, such as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have also called for him to step down. I think Romney and others outside of Iowa should worry about what’s going on in their own states and let Iowans take care of their own business.

And that brings me to my main point. Last November, King received 157,676 votes in defeating his Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten, by a little over 3 percent. He won fair and square – even if people like my friend are calling relatives all over the country to apologize.

The way our system works, King owes it to those 157,676 voters who supported him to honor the trust they put in him, for whatever reasons, and to stay put.

Two Republicans, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and State Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull, have announced their intentions to challenge King in the Republican primary in 2020. That will give Republican voters the chance to evaluate King at the ballot box, where it should be done.

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John Skipper retired from the Mason City Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.

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