SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Rep. Steve King, a white supremacist, won a ninth term in Congress Tuesday night despite months of growing outrage over his bigoted statements and ties to extremist figures in the U.S. and overseas.
King beat Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player and paralegal.
The longterm lawmaker had barely campaigned in the months leading up to Election Day, expecting another blowout victory in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. In that deeply conservative region in the northwest part of the state, King has routinely been re-elected by over 20 points.
But a poll last week showed King with just a one-point lead over Scholten, raising the real possibility of a big Democratic upset in a district that President Donald Trump carried by 27 points in 2016.
The poll came amidst increased media scrutiny of King’s white nationalist views. In October, he endorsed a mayoral candidate in Toronto who has recited the “14 words,” a slogan used by neo-Nazis.
Also in October, HuffPost uncovered an interview that King had given to an Austrian publication with ties to neo-Nazis. In that interview, he discussed the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory ― the belief that immigration, particularly from Muslim-majority countries, will mean the extinction of white European culture and identity. King also pushed the anti-Semitic idea that the liberal, Jewish billionaire George Soros — a frequent bogeyman of the far right — might be funding the “Great Replacement.”
King’s long history of bigotry came into sharp focus early last week after 11 worshippers inside a Pittsburgh synagogue were killed by an alleged white supremacist, who believed Jews were funding immigration by people of color into the U.S.
Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, issued a rare rebuke of King after the shooting. “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior,” Stivers said in a statement.
Major companies that had contributed to King’s campaigns — including Purina, Land O’ Lakes, Intel, AT&T and Smithfield Foods — announced they would no longer financially support the congressman.
At a candidate forum hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, King lashed out at an Iowa resident who pressed him on on the similarity between King’s anti-immigration beliefs and those of the Pittsburgh shooter.
The Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), urging Ryan to formally censure King and strip him of a House subcommittee chairmanship. “By doing so, you will make clear that his actions were deeply offensive, wrong, and that the U.S. House of Representatives will not tolerate anti-Semitism or bigotry in any form,” wrote Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL.
The editorial board at the Sioux City Journal in Iowa, which has repeatedly endorsed King in prior elections, endorsed Scholten on Friday. “Those were not easy words for us to write,” the board said of its decision.
Meanwhile, Scholten — who had campaigned for months driving around the district in an RV — enjoyed a surge in donations, raking in $641,000 during one 48-hour period last week.
In a fundraising email, King blamed his campaign troubles on a “radical leftist mob” that “is completely out of control.”
“My opponent is the antithesis (the opposite) of Iowa values,” he added in a tweet. “My record proves I embody them. Don’t let the million$ from Left Coast billionaires pay in advance and buy your Congressman.”
King released his first television spot of the campaign on Friday, only a few days before the election. It was a recycled ad that he had used in 2014.
This week, King returned to his habit of making bigoted remarks, criticizing the National Republican Congressional Committee for supporting a candidate for Congress who is gay.
“They sent money over to support a candidate in a primary in California who had a same-sex partner that they put all over glossy mailers,” King said at a campaign event. “That’s hard to write a check to those guys when they do that, so I’m hoping we get conservative leadership in the House.”
Yet Iowa Republicans came to King’s defense on Monday. Sen. Chuck Grassley gave a statement in support of the congressman. King was also welcomed at a Sioux Center campaign rally Monday night for Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, where he spoke to a crowd of a few hundred people in support of Reynolds and other GOP candidates in Iowa.
Reynolds and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst smiled and laughed with King, and applauded him when he spoke.