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April 29th, 2013

King Nearing Senate Decision; Ernst, Roberts Strongly Considering

Steve King is a man wrestling with a difficult decision. Should he remain in his safe U.S. House seat in conservative northwest Iowa? Or should he risk his political career and make a bid for Iowa’s open senate seat in 2014? After three months of internal debate, King still has not made up his mind.

Although he is famous for making statements that are not politically correct or popular, Steve King is no political fool. He knows the opportunity to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in Iowa is extremely rare. He also knows winning a statewide race would be difficult.

Weighing even heavier on his mind is the knowledge that the race to fill the seat currently occupied by Tom Harkin will likely be one of the most hard-fought, expensive and vitriolic races in the country. For twelve weeks, Steve King has evaluated all the pros and cons.  His final decision is likely to come very soon.

“I’ve said for several weeks now that it wouldn’t be for very long,” King told “I’ve got an opportunity to be in Iowa this coming week and it’s one of the things I’ve promised myself is to turn my focus to that decision-making. There are a number of meetings that I’ll be having throughout that period of time and we’ll see where it goes.”

A close advisor the Fourth District congressman tells TIR that King is not sure if he wants to put his family through another bruising campaign. The Democrats threw everything they had at King in an effort to aid Christie Vilsack’s bid to unseat him. They researched every aspect of King’s life, and his family’s. They publicly criticized his son and got their allies in the media to do the same.

All competitive congressional and senate campaigns have trackers. Armed with video cameras, they follow the opponent around to record their statements at public events. However, the Democrats and Vilsack campaign took candidate tracking to the extreme in 2012. They crashed King’s private fundraisers. They videotaped his private conversations. They even stuck their microphones and cameras within inches of King and his campaign team as they were praying before a debate.

It was all designed to find something, anything to use against him. Those types of tactics would likely be even more overbearing in a U.S. Senate race. With that in mind, King has gone from a candidate who was leaning toward running a couple of months ago to vacillating on what to do.

“I feel like I’m a carpenter’s level on the arm of a rocking chair and it just keeps going back and forth, the bubble between one direction and the other,” King said. “I owe Iowans an answer as soon as possible and I really appreciate so many of my friends and colleagues that have given me deference and time to make this decision, but I owe it to them to get to that decision very quickly.”

Ernst Likely to Run if King Does Not

All the other potential candidates are waiting to see what Steve King will do. They know the conservative firebrand would be practically unbeatable in a Republican primary. However, if King does not run, other candidates are ready to jump in. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker has already declared he will enter the race if King does not.

State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak) has begun making the moves in preparation for a U.S. Senate bid. Ernst says it is likely she will run for the U.S. Senate if Steve King decides not to.

“I bring some different attributes to this seat,” Ernst told “We won’t have this opportunity again for a very long time so I think it’s important that Republicans can take this seat and hold this seat. I think as a veteran, I think I bring a unique aspect that hasn’t been talked about yet as members come forward that want to run for this seat.”

Ernst is a major in the Iowa Army National Guard and has 18 years of military experience. She was elected to the state senate in 2010, filling the vacancy created by Kim Reynolds’ election as lieutenant governor. Prior to joining the senate, Ernst served as the Montgomery County Auditor for six years. She was born and raised there.

“I’ve enjoyed working in the state senate and this was a natural progression, I felt,” Ernst stated. “I really want to work for Iowa and take that common sense to Washington, D.C.”

Joni Ernst has set a timeline of about 30 days to make a decision on whether or not to pursue this opportunity.

Rod Roberts Mulling Over a Bid

Former state representative and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts is another potential contender for the GOP nomination. He tells that a bid for the U.S. Senate seat is something he is considering.

“A few months ago I didn’t anticipate that running for the U.S. Senate would be a real possibility,” Roberts said. “Like most folks, I assumed either Congressman Latham or Congressman King would run. But, as the odds have increased that neither congressman will run, more people have encouraged me to think about it. At this point, I’d say I’m certainly considering the opportunity, and I’m planning to continue talking with family, friends and supporters in the coming weeks.”

Roberts is now the director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. He said he enjoys that job and believes he is making a real difference. However, with liberal Democrat Tom Harkin retiring, the time is now for Iowa Republicans to seize the day.

“Open seats in the U.S. Senate don’t come around often, and to take advantage of this opportunity, we need to make sure we have the best candidates possible,” Roberts said.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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