AMES — U.S. Rep. Steve King says political payback is behind a prominent Christian conservative leader’s endorsement of one of King’s Republican primary challengers.
Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader, earlier this week endorsed Randy Feenstra for Congress in western Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
Feenstra is one of three Republicans challenging King, a nine-term Republican congressman.
King said he is certain Vander Plaats’ endorsement of a longtime incumbent’s primary challenger is political payback for when King, in 2010, nominated Kim Reynolds for lieutenant governor instead of Vander Plaats.
“I know exactly what it means. It means that when I nominated Kim Reynolds for lieutenant governor, this is how that score’s getting settled,” King told reporters Friday after a town hall meeting here. “I don’t have any doubt.”
In 2010, Vander Plaats was defeated in the Republican primary in Iowa’s race for governor. But some party activists then nominated him to be lieutenant governor, which required him to square off at the party’s state convention against Reynolds, Gov. Terry Branstad’s pick to be his running mate.
Reynolds won the convention vote, 749-579. King supported Reynolds’ nomination.
On Friday, King said he is not concerned that Vander Plaats’ endorsement will cause a significant shift among the 4th District’s Republican primary electorate.
“Those folks are pro-life, they’re pro-marriage, pro-Constitution, pro-rule of law, pro-fiscal responsibility, pro-Second Amendment, pro-repeal Obamacare. I mean, I own almost all those issues,” King said. “So why would they turn on somebody that’s delivered them everything they want? Unless they’re getting a little more than they want.”
Vander Plaats disputes accusation
Vander Plaats disputed King’s accusation.
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In a text message response to The Gazette’s Des Moines Bureau, Vander Plaats said he is “thrilled” that Reynolds became lieutenant governor and has since become Iowa’s governor.
“So, no political payback,” Vander Plaats said in the text.
“My endorsement has everything to do with endorsing a candidate that will provide effective representation that is reflective of all the good people in the 4th District. The people of the 4th District deserve (the) best representation (of) the candidates in the race, (and) the best prepared candidate is Randy Feenstra.”
Feenstra is a state senator from Hull.
Why Republicans are challenging King
King in November survived the closest election race of his nine-term career in Congress, and early this year was stripped of his committee assignments for his comments defending white supremacy that appeared in a national news story. King has maintained his comments were misheard.
Those events have emboldened Republicans to mount a primary challenge to King. The other Republicans running in the 4th District are Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and Bret Richards, former mayor of Irwin.
Town hall in Ames
King spoke and took questions for an hour at the town hall in Ames.
He largely deflected questions about President Donald Trump’s comments on Sunday about four Democratic congresswomen. King said he thinks Congress would have been better off had it not waded into discussion about them.
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