- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2018

Iowa Rep. Steve King on Thursday slapped down reports that he met with members of a far-right Austrian political group and aggressively pushed back against the assertion that he has anything in common with the man charged with killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend.

Mr. King is playing defense in his re-election race in northwest Iowa, where Democrats say his racist tendencies and affinity for white nationalism are finally catching up with him and could lead to one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 midterm elections.

“You know the job I have done, let’s deal with the facts, let’s not deal with these falsehoods that are here,” Mr. King said at a forum in Iowa on Thursday, alluding to allegations that have been leveled against him.

During his eight terms in the House, Mr. King has been one of the most vocal advocates for cracking down on illegal immigration. He has been one of the left wing’s most reliable political villains and has been an occasional menace to the leaders of his party.

His behavior, though, is facing broader scrutiny following the failed pipe bomb plot against former President Barack Obama and other high-profile Democrats and the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which have renewed calls for more civility in politics as voters head to the polls next week.

Democrats and Republicans say his fiery rhetoric and controversial tweets are out of line. Mr. King also has been criticized for endorsing a Toronto mayoral candidate accused of promoting white nationalism and for comments he made in an interview with a far-right news website in Austria.

Rep. Steve Stivers, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans’ campaign arm, said he strongly condemned Mr. King’s “comments, actions and retweets” and said “we must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms.”

Jewish leaders in Iowa and well-known companies, including Land O’Lakes, also cut ties.

Jesse Hunt, an NRCC spokesman, told The Washington Times that the group has not been helping Mr. King and “certainly won’t be going forward.”

At the Iowa forum, Mr. King said, “Stivers’ behavior has befuddled every Republican that I have talked to and everyone I know, including our leadership.”

The 69-year-old old blamed the blowback against him on “false” reporting in The Washington Post that stated he had met with members of a far-right European Party with historical Nazi ties.

Mr. King also angrily denounced someone who suggested he shared the same ideology as the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue.

“We don’t get to play these games here in Iowa,” Mr. King told the man. “You crossed the line. It is not tolerable to accuse me of being associated with a guy who shot 11 people in Pittsburgh. I am a person who has stood with Israel from the beginning. The length of that nation is the length of my life, and I have been with them all along.”

Craig Robinson, a veteran Iowa GOP insider, said Mr. King is not doing anything that he hasn’t done before.

But he said the series of events has created a “perfect storm” that has given Democrats hope that their candidate, J.D. Scholten, a former professional baseball player, can pull off what would be considered a monumental upset in the ruby red 4th Congressional District that President Trump carried by 27 points in 2016.

“Frankly, it is a mess he has created himself,” Mr. Robinson said of Mr. King. “I mean, he weighed in on the Toronto mayor’s race. It is like, ‘Dude, why?’ I think part of it is he likes be provocative like this, but someday it could bite him in the butt.”

Smelling blood in the water, national Democrats are piling on.

Fred Hubbell, the Democratic nominee for Iowa governor, called on Gov. Kim Reynolds to oust Mr. King as her campaign co-chairman, and some of the potential 2020 Democratic contenders for president linked Mr. King to Mr. Trump.

“Donald Trump might not have the worst Twitter account in Washington,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in a Progressive Change Campaign Committee fundraising email. “There’s a guy in Congress who gives him a run for his money. A guy who regularly spews out white supremacist propaganda. His name is Steve King. And next week, we can beat him.”

In another fundraising pitch for Mr. Scholten, Sen. Kamala Harris of California said Mr. King “is one of our nation’s loudest voices who sows division and hate among Americans — just like Donald Trump.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert, both of Texas, have defended Mr. King.

“It’s happening again,” Mr. Gohmert tweeted. “Some of the same Establishment Republicans who thought this country would be better off if Hillary Clinton won the election in 2016 are now joining with what calls itself the media in this country to slander conservatives.”

Mr. Robinson said some of the King criticism has been manufactured, but some is warranted because of the way he has taken re-election campaigns for granted since he defeated former Iowa first lady Christine Vilsack in 2012.

Others said they don’t believe Mr. King has run a single campaign ad this year. The King campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. King has raised $738,000 for his re-election bid. Mr. Scholten has raised more than $1.7 million.

Democrats said things brightened more this week after a poll showed Mr. Scholten trailing Mr. King by a single point. (The King campaign released an internal poll showing him up 18 points.)

“People have been genuinely excited about this race from the beginning, but boy when we saw that most recent poll a new fire was lit,” said Jan Bauer, chairwoman of the Story County Democrats. “Now everyone is excited and everyone is doing what they can to make it happen.”

Mr. Scholten’s campaign raised $641,000 since the poll was released, Politico reported Thursday.

Ms. Bauer said Democrats view Mr. Scholten, a political newcomer, as a “hometown hero because he was willing to step up and challenge the incumbent.”

“It is David versus Goliath at work,” she said, adding that people are tired of “the hate that he repeatedly spews.”

“That is just not who we are,” Ms. Bauer said. “We are not a hate-filled community. We are working folks just trying to get along in a very complicated world, and with him characterizing us as anything but that it is an insult to us and we are just fed up with it.”

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