OTTUMWA — Distancing herself from fellow Republican Steve King, Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday said the outspoken congressman should consider whether his rhetoric and actions represent the “values” of his district.
“Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to just take a look at that,” Reynolds told reporters.
Reynolds, who narrowly defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell for her first four-year term as governor Tuesday, was repeatedly asked about King in the closing days of the contest.
Hubbell called repeatedly for Reynolds to remove King as a co-chairman of her campaign, citing his anti-immigrant statements and support for white nationalist politicians.
Her remarks Tuesday came during her first news conference since the Nov. 6 election, when a reporter asked about the thoughts on the increased controversy surrounding King.
At the press gathering in Ottumwa, Reynolds said she hasn’t spoken directly with King since the election and she doesn’t have any plans to meet with him in the near future, saying she is currently busy preparing the new state budget.
King beat Democrat J.D. Scholten, 50 percent to 47 percent, by far the closest margin of victory in his nine previous elections in the most Republican of Iowa’s congressional districts.
In the final two weeks of the campaign, King weathered a series of criticisms for his support of a white nationalist candidate for Toronto mayor and his meeting with a member of an Austrian political party with historic ties to the Nazi Party.
In an interview with Radio Iowa in Ottumwa on Tuesday, Reynolds said of King’s close call in the election, “I think this would be a pretty good confirmation from his constituents that they would like to see more of him.”
At his postelection victory party, King blasted his critics and the “onslaught of an attempt to Kavanaugh-ize me ... like this state has never seen and like maybe America has never seen.”
Scholten, a former professional baseball player and paralegal also penned an op-ed in USA Today on Tuesday in which he assessed his near miss against King in a district with 70,000 more registered Republican voters than registered Democrats.
“So why does Steve King get re-elected?” Scholten said in the op-ed. “The best I can sum it up is that it’s a numbers game, combined with the way the media works in small towns and the increasingly urban-centric Democratic Party leaving districts like this one behind.”
Scholten suggested that in the many small-town newspapers that serve the 39-county district, King “doesn’t create the same headlines that he does nationally.”
“Some of the national headlines break through,” he wrote. “But for the most part, if you are a farmer on your combine listening to talk radio and getting reports about record low soybean prices, your congressman meeting with neo-Nazis or tweeting in support of a Toronto mayoral candidate who is a white nationalist just seems far away from day-to-day life.”
Scholten, who has not ruled out another run, begins a two-day “thank you tour” of five cities in the district on Wednesday.
Rod Boshart of the Gazette contributed to this report.