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Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King Re-elected Despite Criticism From Republican Colleagues

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on January 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Rep. Steve King won a ninth term to Congress in his toughest campaign yet, defeating a strong challenge from J.D. Scholten, despite criticism from his own Republican colleagues over his comments this year criticizing diversity in the United States, as well as George Soros, a Jewish billionaire and Democratic donor.

With 99% of precincts reporting, CNN projected King won the deeply conservative district with 50.6% of the vote to 46.8% for his Democratic challenger JD Scholten. In 2016, King cruised to victory with over 61% of the vote.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that King questioned the value of diversity in an interview with Unzensuriert, “a publication associated with Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by a former Nazi SS officer and is now led by Heinz-Christian Strache, who was active in neo-Nazi circles as a youth.” The Post noted that, “the party has distanced itself from those connections” but “recently embraced a hard-line anti-immigration stance while seeking ties with other far-right parties and leaders abroad.”

In the interview, King said, “diversity is not a strength” and asked, “what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price?”

King suggested in the same interview that Soros has propped up a range of liberal causes and speculated that he may have funded the Women’s March.

“His money floats in in such a way you can’t see the flow, but if you trace it back you can connect it to his foundation,” he said. Soros is a major liberal donor, but the fact-checker PolitiFact concluded last year that claims that money from Soros went directly to protesters in the Women’s March were not true.

On October 30, just three days after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and a week before the election, Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, the chair of the House Republican campaign arm, sharply criticized King in a tweet.

“Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate,” Stivers tweeted. “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”

King soon responded with his first TV ads of the election cycle, as companies like Land O’ Lakes announced they would no longer support King. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player who had been campaigning across northwest Iowa in a Winnebago, raised $900,000 in a week, according to The Hill.

Democrats had hoped that they’d finally be able to oust King, whose most difficult re-election fight in Congress had been in 2012, when he beat Christie Vilsack, former governor Tom Vilsack’s wife, by eight points.

Tim Allen, the GOP chair of Iowa’s Sioux county, told CNN that while King “has taken previous credible challengers seriously,” King erred in discounting Scholten’s ability to raise money.

“He’s not connected like (2014 Democratic challenger) Jim Mowrer or Vilsack are, so it was a reasonable assumption at the time,” said Allen of Scholten.

Dan Sena, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Washington Post that the campaign-arm spent “several hundred thousand dollars” in red districts like the Iowa 4th Congressional District. But the help came too late, despite earlier pleas by Scholten and his campaign team for the DCCC to take a harder look at their race.