Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, speaks to about 140 local Republicans at a Jones County GOP fundraiser Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Bill Dahlsten.
ANAMOSA, Iowa—Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, spoke Saturday at two GOP events, testing the waters in Democratic-leaning Eastern Iowa as he inches closer to a decision on a run for U.S. Senate.
“I enjoy my time among Iowans and Republicans,” King said in an interview Saturday night before a speech to Jones County Republicans. “It’s fun, but not this hanging fire over a decision. That’s what happens when you’re going to fire a flintlock. There’s this delay between the spark and the ignition.”
King declined to reveal an exact timetable for his decision, but party insiders expect a decision by May 1. King will face another round of scrutiny April 15 when he must file his next campaign finance report.
King has talked with Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey about the race, and both have given King the first right of refusal.
“The people in this state need an answer, especially the people who are considering to run. They’ve given me great deference, and I don’t want to abuse that.”
King detailed a series of meetings with his campaign staff to analyze statewide polling data as he considers a Senate run.
“Over the past week, I can now see a path to victory. I can see how to get there,” he said. “Without that data, it was just conjecture.”
“There’s still some reservation about the risk of giving up a [congressional] seat, but there’s a lot of support for him in this area,” said Gerald Retzlaff, of Monticello, the chairman of the Jones County Republicans. “Part of the reason we invited him was to give him the opportunity to test the waters a little bit.”
King said that he’s stiff focused on advancing conservative principles in Congress as he contemplates a bid for higher office. President Obama is expected to introduce his budget proposal Wednesday, a document King has already criticized.
“We always knew that the president’s budget wasn’t going to be taken seriously by Democrats, let alone Republicans,” King said. “No Democrat would vote for the president budget, it’s not a serious document.”
King said that the U.S. House will mark up the farm bill in the next 4-6 weeks, which will likely include a strong crop insurance program, eliminate direct payments and reform food stamps. King views the debt ceiling as the next major battleground in Congress.
“This will come down to a showdown on the debt ceiling,” King said. May 18 is the projected deadline, but the president’s administration could push the deadline a month or two. King and many House conservatives will insist on a balanced budget amendment to approve any increase in the debt limit.
In a broad speech to about 140 local Republicans, King compared Obama unfavorably to the recently departed president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, for the former’s bailout of Chrysler, charging that Obama’s administration has become “a lot closer to a dictatorship than it is a presidency.”
“This president acts with impunity and has contempt for his own oath of office,” King said. He also criticized President Obama for acting without constitutional authority to cancel parts of No Child Left Behind, jettison the work component of welfare, provide abortifacients through Obamacare and decline to enforce immigration laws.
“We have forgotten the principles that have built this country,” King said. “And we are losing them day by day because of pressure by the president. He has decided that he is going to rule by edict, and the way that he’s going to do that is to get enough people that are dependent on government.”
King renewed his opposition to Obamacare and pledged to use his influence in Congress to continue repeal efforts.
“The most important thing is our soul, and they haven’t figure out how to nationalize it,” King said. “The second most important thing is our health… and they’ve nationalized our bodies… It is on peoples’ lips. They hate Obamacare. My emotions are a bit stronger than that.”
After his speech, King addressed speculation on his political future in a question and answer session.
“I don’t know the answer yet,” King said. “This has to be an analytical decision first, the decision of the head. Does that match the gut feeling? And then, does the heart match up to the head?”
“You can’t just ask God,” King said. “Because he’ll say, ‘You’re a slacker. You do your due diligence.’”
King said that his decision-making process has focused on whether putting his career at risk is worth the opportunity to put a hold on bills, influence appointments by the Obama administration, affect Supreme Court nominees and wield a bigger bully pulpit.
“My question that I’ve got to get answered is that of all the political capital that I’ve accumulated over the years has to be pushed out on to the table,” he said. “At this point, I’m thinking somebody needs to beat Bruce Braley. This is a very big decision. I could use your counsel, and I could use your prayers.”
Earlier Saturday, King spoke at the Scott County Republican Party’s Lincoln Club in Bettendorf to more than 50 Republicans.
“Congressman King gave an inspiring speech, which was very well received. He opened it up for questions and answered every question that was asked. In addition, those who attended told me it was a great event and very much enjoyed hearing from the Congressman,” said Scott County GOP chair Judy Davidson. “It was an honor having Congressman King here in Scott County, and I very much appreciate him visiting us. He had also been a guest for one of these events three years ago, so it was great to welcome him back.”
King also joined a roundtable of reporters on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” Friday to discuss his political future and work in Congress.
King chatted with Hayley Manternach, 10, the daughter of Jones County supervisor Wayne Manternach.
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