Iowa congressman Steve King is gearing up for the toughest campaign of his political career. The conservative stalwart faces a liberal onslaught in 2012. The Democrats would love to unseat King and are ready to spend millions of dollars and countless resources into making that happen.
Presuming they withstand any primary challenges, Christie Vilsack’s name will appear on the ballot opposite Steve King’s. However, the 5th District congressman knows his challenge will not come just from the state’s former First Lady. He also must contend with a longtime political opponent, former Iowa governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
“We don’t know what her record is,” King told TheIowaRepublican. “We don’t know where she stands on anything. All we know is that she said she supports her husband’s positions. There should be no illusions. There’s two Vilsacks in the race, not one. So, if that’s the way it is, we will run the race accordingly and we’ll take on two Vilsacks rather than one and Barack Obama standing in the background.”
Steve King has waged numerous political battles with Tom Vilsack. When King was still a state senator in 2000, he successfully sued Vilsack, rendering an executive order from the then-governor unconstitutional. They are currently duking it out over the Pigford settlement, a USDA payout plan to black farmers who were allegedly discriminated against. The settlements have reached billions of taxpayer dollars and the case is riddled with fraud. Vilsack has opposed all efforts to investigate the scandal.
It would be a violation of federal law for Tom Vilsack to openly campaign for his wife since he is a federal employee. However, Vilsack was at his wife’s side during her announcement tour. Ethically, he can do that as long as he does not identify himself as the Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack also jumped into the fray prior to her official announcement, saying the race would be like a “holy war.”
Tom Vilsack’s connections in the agri-business community seem to be paying off for his wife’s campaign. She received donations from wealthy out-of-state corporate leaders who could have dealings with the Vilsack’s USDA. Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farms in New Hampshire, and Walter Robb, CEO of Whole Foods in California, donated to Christie Vilsack’s campaign. Only 30 Iowans from the new 4th District, which Vilsack hopes to represent, gave money to her campaign. The former First Lady of Iowa garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside interests.
“She raised $424,000 in the previous quarter and was not yet an announced candidate,” King said. “That money came from all over the country. They’re raising George Soros money against me right now. David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s lead fundraiser, who is raising their target of a billion dollars to reelect Barack Obama, maxed out to Christie Vilsack, along with Nancy Pelosi, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood. Name your cast countercultural characters, they will all be there before this is all done.”
Christie Vilsack’s initial campaign foray involved touring the new 4th congressional district for a “listening tour”. She refused to answer questions during her visits and spent a large amount of time asking attendees about “Iowa values”. That approach is far different from the straightforward style of Congressman King.
“I’m born and raised here, a product of Iowa,” King said. “I’ve spent a lot of my life working in this earth. We’ve made our living moving dirt and working with soil conservation, ag-related. We’re tied to Iowa. We don’t have to go around Iowa and ask what Iowa values are. In fact, I’d be embarrassed to ask that question.”
Republicans maintain a large voting advantage in the new 4th District. However, Vilsack’s deep-pocketed Democrat backers might give her the financial edge. Liberal out-of-state interests are trying to buy a congressional seat in Iowa’s most conservative district. They picked this fight with Steve King. He has never shied away from a political battle. This campaign has all the makings for one of the most heated races in the nation in 2012.
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