Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, listens at the National Press Club in Washington on Feb. 8, 2011.
Cliff Owen/AP

Iowa governor discovers her Steve King concerns at a convenient time


Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) recently found herself in an awkward position. As Election Day approached, polls showed the Republican governor narrowly behind her Democratic challenger in a year where Dems appeared likely to make gains in this Midwestern swing state.

Complicating matters, Reynolds’ campaign co-chair was right-wing Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose racist antics were drawing fire from within their party. If the governor denounced her ally, she risked alienating parts of the GOP base. If Reynolds voiced support for King, she risked alienating mainstream voters offended by the congressman’s conduct.

The Iowa governor’s solution? She tried to avoid King’s mess and hoped voters would back her anyway. The strategy may have ruined Kim Reynolds’ chances of ever winning a Profile in Courage Award, but it was enough to win the election: the governor prevailed by three points over Fred Hubbell (D).

And wouldn’t you know it, now that the race is over, Reynolds feels empowered to show the kind of courage she was afraid to show before Iowans cast their ballots. The Des Moines Register  reported yesterday:

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signaled Tuesday she’s lost her patience with U.S. Rep. Steve King, who narrowly won a ninth term in the U.S. House last week despite a firestorm of criticism for aligning himself with far-right European politicians and repeatedly making remarks many have deemed racist.

Reynolds, a Republican who defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell in a close race to win a full four-year term, offered a bluntly worded response when asked by a reporter if she had visited with King about a series of controversies he has been facing.

Reynolds said she hasn’t talked with the Iowa congressman because she has been busy since the election. But, she added, “I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that.”

This was apparently the most forceful Reynolds has been to date in her criticisms of the right-wing congressman. And while King’s detractors will likely welcome the governor’s comments, her timing is extraordinarily convenient.

Last week, Steve King was Reynolds’ campaign co-chair, whom she campaigned alongside just days before Election Day. This week, Reynolds isn’t sure Steve King properly represents the values of his constituents in western Iowa.

Remember, the week before Election Day, some GOP leaders were prepared to effectively cut King loose. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) publicly denounced the Iowan’s “racist” antics, adding, “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”

Kim Reynolds could’ve said something similar at the time. Instead, the governor waited until her criticisms couldn’t hurt her own ambitions.