King Promises Rightward Movement for Iowa
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By Gregory L. Giroux
CQ Staff Writer
Friday, July 5, 2002; 5:35 PM

If Republican state Sen. Steve King captures Iowa's 5th District in November, as political strategists in both parties expect, he will use his House seat as a "leadership position. . . .to move the political center in Washington to the right."

Those were King's words to the convention that gave the conservative six-year state legislator the GOP nomination on June 29, nearly four weeks after the four-candidate GOP primary failed to produce a clear-cut winner. King's triumph was tantamount to a general election victory in the 5th, a solidly conservative, mostly rural 32-county swath in western Iowa. He is strongly favored to defeat Democratic nominee Paul Shomshor, an accountant and former city councilman from Council Bluffs.

King's political philosophy is heavily colored by his business background as the owner of a construction company he founded in 1975. He thinks that government too heavily taxes and regulates businesses such as his own.

"I saw that government weight cause me to take more and more of my resources and hire people to fill out paperwork and meet their requirements," said King, who added that 43 federal, state and local government agencies regulate his business.

The current tax code, he said, inflicts a burden that "saps the resources" of businesses small and large and "takes away incentive for entrepreneurs."

King will bring to Congress the same tax-cutting zeal he exemplified in the state Senate. He backed the repeal of the state inheritance tax and supported a 15 percent across-the-board state income tax reduction over the 10 percent cut that was ultimately enacted.

On social issues, he similarly espouses strongly conservative views, particularly his opposition to abortion rights. In the state Senate, he sponsored a law that declared English to be Iowa's official language. And he has denounced affirmative action programs as "preferential treatment policies" that are the "last bastion of institutionalized racism in this country."

King is a strong advocate of a national right-to-work law but concedes it will be difficult to enact. He wants to repeal the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay their employees "local prevailing wages," which organized labor supports.

"It's an inappropriate place for the federal government to be involved in telling people what to pay their help," King said. "I deal with that on an annual basis here. ... I tell people that I don't get to die until that is repealed."

Political Aspirations
King's entry into politics -- "I am not the product of a candidate recruitment plan," he said -- stems from his 1996 run for state Senate largely out of frustration with some of its legislators.

Testifying before a state Senate committee on a property-rights bill, he spoke for three of the 10 minutes he was allotted before he was interrupted by a senator who asked a question that took six minutes.

"I opened my mouth to answer the question and the chairman said, 'Time's up,'" King said. "I walked out of there and I thought, 'I will be back.'"

He challenged state Sen. Wayne Bennett in a GOP primary after Bennett rebuffed King's request to strengthen language in a bill requiring parental notification before a minor's abortion.

"Then I just decided that I could spend the rest of my life piling one dollar on top of another running the business, or I could get involved in public service," King said. "So I filed paperwork and ran for office."

He trounced Bennett by more than a 2-1 ratio in the primary and comfortably won the general election, and was easily re-elected in 2000.

With regard to his congressional bid, he recalled talking to Republican former Rep. Fred Grandy (1987-95) sometime in the late 1980s about succeeding him in the House, and in his first term as a state legislator, King discussed with fellow Republican senator John Redwine the possibility of running against one another in a U.S. House primary.

That scenario was borne out in early 2001, when redistricting redrew the 5th as an open seat. Republican Rep. Tom Latham, who represents most of the territory that comprises the reconfigured 5th, decided to run in the north-central 4th District. King and Redwine were joined in the GOP primary by state House Speaker Brent Siegrist and businessman Jeff Ballenger.

Building the Base
King's campaign started slowly. Redwine had a base in solidly conservative northwest Iowa, Siegrist had significant institutional support and Ballenger had substantial personal resources.

But King positioned himself as the most conservative candidate and received some key financial backing from the conservative Club for Growth, which aired television ads lauding King and funneled individual contributions to his campaign. King said the Club for Growth "helped significantly."

He also received endorsements from prominent conservative activists Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes, who together won a majority of votes in the 2000 Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa.

That backing, and his popularity in rural areas, propelled King to a 30 percent showing in the June 4 primary, which topped Redwine (25 percent), Siegrist (24 percent) and Ballenger (21 percent). But Iowa law triggered a nominating convention -- the state's first since 1964 -- because no candidate received 35 percent of the vote.

King captured the nomination on the third ballot, beating Siegrist 272-253, after falling short of a majority vote on earlier ballots that eliminated Redwine and Ballenger.

The convention had added significance for King because it was held at Denison High School, where he graduated from in 1967. King was nominated on the same day of his 35-year reunion.

Source: CQ Daily Monitor
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