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Article from the Sioux City Journal - Sunday, June 30, 2002

Fifth District Republicans Crown Their King

By Kate Thompson Journal staff writer
DENISON, Iowa -- The Republican 5th District Convention in Denison took just over four hours and three votes to select Iowa Sen. Steve King of Kiron as the nominee for the open U.S. Congress seat.

In the June 4 primary, King won the largest number of votes but fell short of the 35 percent required to take the nomination. As a result, 533 members of the convention had to choose the nominee.

There were tents, elephants and what some people might call clowns. But despite the circus-like atmosphere, the 533 delegates were there with just one mission: choosing a nominee for Congress in the sprawling 5th District of Iowa which covers 32 counties from Minnesota to Missouri.

"This seat will be used to move the political center of gravity in Congress to the right," King told cheering delegates, after narrowly defeating House Speaker Brent Siegrist of Council Bluffs, 272 to 253, on the third ballot. Iowa Sen. John Redwine of Sioux City and Council Bluffs businessman Jeff Ballenger were the first and second to fall in balloting.

Paul Shomshor is the Democratic nominee and welcomed King to the race.

"What the vote (Saturday) demonstrates is that it is clearly a divided party that has chosen a candidate," Shomshor said. "I think that I will represent mainstream Iowa. They may have selected a candidate from the geographic center of the district but I am from the political center."

King, however, is the favorite in the race because the 32-county district has 55,000 more Republicans than Democrats.

King vowed to go after every county and visit every one of the 286 cities in the district.

"Western Iowa is the key to statewide victories," he said. "The future of Iowa is in our hands."

Bill Salier, the Nora Springs farmer who ran against Ganske in the primary, introduced King.

"The culture war continues," Salier said. "It means every single day, every single one of us must pursue the agenda of the Republican Party."

King said he will not compromise his values.

"It's not about compromise if you want to get something done for Republicans," he said. "It's about negotiating from a position of strength."

The vote ended Siegrist's 18-year political career. He is not running again for the state Legislature.

"This is the second time in the last couple of months, I have had to say goodbye," Siegrist said. "This gives me the opportunity to go home to my family. ... I feel so good about the process and the people that ran."

Siegrist said he now will return to the private sector and look for a job.

Ballenger, who received 135 votes on the first ballot and 128 on the second, said it had been a good run.

"Jeff Ballenger is going to support whoever the nominee is 110 percent, because we are all Republicans," he said. "We've been living family values as long as Democrats have been talking about them."

He endorsed Siegrist after his defeat.

The convention also ended Redwine's six-year political career in the Iowa Senate. His seat was thrown into the same district as Iowa Sen. Ken Veenstra of Orange City, who defeated George Schneidermann of Rock Rapids for the Republican nomination June 4.

After receiving a disappointing 99 votes on the first ballot, Redwine endorsed King on the floor.

"Even though there are more Republicans than Democrats in this district, I don't believe it is going to be a slam dunk," Redwine said. "The candidate still is going to have to get out and work."

Redwine said he won't immediately be looking for work. He said he will take some time to spend with his wife and family before determining what's next in his career.

King's selection as the nominee also changes the face of state politics. His state senate seat is not currently open but he is expected to resign.

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