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Iowa Voters Deciding King's Fate       06/02 06:29

   

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Republicans in northwest Iowa are deciding Tuesday 
whether they've had enough of conservative lightning rod Steve King, after 
tolerating the congressman's incendiary comments about immigrants and white 
supremacy for nearly two decades.

   King, who was stripped of his committee assignments in 2018 for comments 
about white nationalism, faces four challengers in the GOP primary. One of 
them, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, has attracted support from key conservative 
groups as well as former King supporters.

   If King loses Tuesday, establishment Republicans suggest the state's lone 
GOP-held U.S. House seat would likely remain in the party's hands, while a King 
primary victory could jeopardize the seat by setting up a rematch with the 
Democrat who came within 2 percentage points of beating him two years ago.

   The Iowa primary also will determine a challenger for freshman Republican 
Sen. Joni Ernst, who has seen her approval numbers dip in recent months. Four 
Democrats are seeking the job.

   King's fate has become the focus of what otherwise would be a sleepy Iowa 
primary.

   "There is a little bit of concern that he's become tone deaf to some of 
these issues," longtime King supporter Ann Trimble Ray said, referring to 
voters' concern that King has been marginalized in Congress, though she remains 
a believer of the congressman.

   King has a number of factors working against him, including signs of high 
turnout. A spike in new voters registered as Republicans in the district are 
less likely to be longtime King supporters, who have never left the voter rolls.

   King, who has aired no television ads, has been outspent by Feenstra and 
conservative groups backing him. Feenstra has been endorsed by abortion rights 
opposition group National Right to Life, once a longtime King supporter, and 
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobbying group.

   Yet the crowded field, which includes a former county supervisor and two 
businessmen, could benefit King by siphoning supporting from Feenstra. To avoid 
a nominating convention, a winning primary candidate must receive at least 35 
percent of the vote.

   House Republicans pulled their support for King in 2018 after reports of 
overtures to right-wing extremists in Europe. They would not be expected to 
come to King's aid this year should he win Tuesday.

   More notable to some former King supporters, he was stripped of his 
membership on the House judiciary and agriculture committees last year after 
being quoted in The New York Times seeming to defend white nationalism.

   Democrats on the other hand will be choosing from four relative unknowns to 
take on Ernst in what has has shaped up to be a more competitive Senate race 
than expected.

   Ernst's job approval and overall favorable ratings have dropped in the past 
year as she has sought to balance support for President Donald Trump, who is 
popular with Republicans but far less so among others in the state.

   Of the four seeking to challenge Ernst, Theresa Greenfield appears to have 
an edge, in part because of her compelling story of being widowed as a young 
mother and owing her rebound to Social Security and union benefits.

   Perhaps most notably, the 55-year-old Greenfield has impressed with her 
fundraising, bringing in more than $7 million since entering the race last 
year. That's at least $5 million more than any of her Democratic opponents and 
reflects the endorsement of the Democrats' national Senate campaign arm.

   And while Ernst has lost some of her footing, it's difficult to say how the 
Senate race proceeds in light of the continuing pandemic, the uncertain economy 
and now protests over over police treatment of African Americans, including in 
Iowa where Trump won by more than 9 percentage points in 2016.

   "Anybody who can predict what the state of the economy will be, any sense of 
community people have, where the partisan tendencies go between now and 
November, it's just really hard to say," said senior Ernst adviser David Kochel.

 
 
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