Republicans offer support for Steve King challenger

House Republican lawmakers are openly expressing support for Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) main primary challenger after the incumbent’s latest controversial remarks about abortion, rape and incest.

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), the sophomore class representative in House GOP leadership, says he plans to contribute the maximum amount to King’s primary opponent.

“I will be openly contributing to his primary opponent and encouraging others to do the same. Enough of his destructive commentary,” said Mitchell, who recently announced his plans to retire from Congress next year.

{mosads}“In my opinion Steve King does not reflect the values or principles of our conference,” Mitchell added.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who led the House GOP’s campaign arm in the last cycle, said he’s thinking about supporting King’s primary opponent.

“I can only speak for myself, but I’m considering my options on supporting his primary opponent, who by all accounts is a good man,” Stivers told The Hill. 

Under Stivers, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) did not offer any assistance to King at the end of the 2018 cycle because of social media posts that backed white nationalists. King ended up winning reelection by just 3 points over Democrat J.D. Scholten in what is considered a heavily conservative district.

Few Republicans are giving King any money.

King raised only $91,000 in the last fundraising quarter that ended in June, compared to Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra’s $140,000. Feenstra, the most prominent of three primary challengers to King, also raked in more money than the incumbent in the previous quarter. 

While the NRCC does not involve itself in primaries, it has been noncommittal about backing King if he does win his primary.

“It’s too early to tell which races we will be supporting because we won’t know what the general election matchup looks like until after the primary,” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack told The Hill. 

King shocked his party on Wednesday with comments at the Westside Conservative Club in Iowa that were meant to defend his position that abortion should be illegal including in cases of rape and incest.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” he said, according to The Des Moines Register.

“Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.” 

It’s hardly the first time King has caused consternation for his party, but it is coming at a particularly bad time.

The House Republican Conference saw its only African American member, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), announce his retirement. It has just 13 women within it, and two of them are also retiring.

Questions about the party’s strength in the suburbs are growing louder as Republicans face a number of tough contests in suburban districts around the country.

GOP lawmakers and their party’s leaders have made their frustration with King crystal clear, but there’s no indication at this point that he could be expelled when the conference returns to Washington next month. Relatively few rank-and-file GOP lawmakers have openly condemned King over his latest comments.

House GOP leaders have referred to their decision in January to remove King from his committee assignments after he questioned how “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” became offensive terms during an interview with The New York Times.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve had concerns with what Steve King has said. Earlier in this Congress, there were things that Steve King said that I do not believe the party of Lincoln would stand for. And as a united conference, we actually removed Steve King from his committees inside Congress, and I think this just continues to show why that action was taken,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Fox News’s “Special Report” on Wednesday. 

{mossecondads}Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the House GOP conference chairwoman and third-ranking member of leadership, reiterated her previous stance that King should leave Congress on Wednesday.

“Today’s comments by @RepSteveKingIA are appalling and bizarre. As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go. The people of Iowa’s 4th congressional district deserve better,” she tweeted.

King’s punishments haven’t stopped the controversies.

Since January, King has drawn ire for posting — and later deleting — a meme on Facebook asking whether red states or blue states would win a new U.S. civil war.

He also declined to take a position when asked at a town hall event about whether a “white society” was “superior” to a “nonwhite” society and said that treating all cultures as equal is “devaluing” the country’s Founding Fathers.

King has remained defiant and pushed to regain his committee assignments. He claimed at his town hall this week that the criticism he faced over his comments to The New York Times in January was orchestrated. 

“People think it was an organic media feeding frenzy, but no, it was orchestrated from the beginning,” he said Wednesday. “They had told me, ‘Heads up before Christmas: They’re going to try to drive you out of office and get you to resign.’ Within 24 hours, you had people saying, ‘Resign, resign, resign.’ Why? Because The New York Times misquoted me?”

King noted that he hasn’t faced pushback from President Trump despite condemnation from his House GOP colleagues, saying there’s “no signal from Donald Trump that he’s anything other than supportive of me.”

Al Weaver contributed.

Tags Abortion Donald Trump House Iowa Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney National Republican Campaign Committee NRCC Paul Mitchell Steve King Steve Stivers Will Hurd

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