Steve King Predicts “Very Nasty” Primary vs. Bertrand

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Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In an interview with the Iowa State Daily about a week and a half after state Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, announced he would challenge Steve King in the 4th Congressional District, King predicted a “very nasty” fight leading up to the June GOP primary.

Last November, King poked a finger in the eye of Iowa’s Republican establishment by endorsing Ted Cruz, who won the state’s caucuses in February despite making what GOP power players like Gov. Terry Branstad hoped would be a fatal mistake to oppose the Renewable Fuel Standard that helps drive Iowa’s corn ethanol industry.

Because of that, King’s now up against not only Bertrand but Board of Regents President/agribiz tycoon Bruce Rastetter and political operative Nick Ryan, both big-money donors who are supporting the challenger. (When Radio Iowa‘s O. Kay Henderson asked Rastetter on Iowa Press last weekend if he was the one who got Bertrand into the race, Rastetter replied: “If someone tells you they’re interested, and you think that they’d make a great congressman, then you — when you tell them you’d support them, I would guess whether you call that recruiting or whether you call that encouraging, I believe in helping principled people win.”)

Ryan’s been behind several super PACs and dark money groups operating in the state. In January, he made no secret of his distaste for King’s brand of politics in a tweet:

Exchanging jabs through the Daily‘s Alex Hanson, King said of Ryan: “He doesn’t know anything else [beyond nasty campaigning], and he profits from money raised and money spent, so he gets a commission coming and going. He needed someone to attack in a primary or else his revenue stream would probably be a little short until the general election.” Ryan responded: “How disappointing and sad that Steve lashes out like this. I want a congressman that is positive, forward looking and puts his district first — not one that attacks his own constituents.”

How much — if any — cash Rastetter and Ryan pump into Bertrand’s campaign, and whether their support will help unseat the longtime incumbent, remains to be seen.

Another candidate, Paul Lunde — the Ames attorney whose pro-bono legal representation helped stop the construction of a new City Hall in the mid-’80s in favor of renovating the former middle school where it sits today — announced his intentions to run in the primary in January but bowed out earlier this month, saying in a statement that he “simply did not have time” even to collect the required number of signatures to get on the ballot. Lunde previously ran for Congress in 1988, 1990, and 1992, and also entered the fray in the GOP Senate primary won by Joni Ernst in 2014 in an effort to sell copies of his self-published books.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.