Iowa GOP fixture Steve King draws a primary challenger

When you think of Iowa politics in the current political era, one name which always comes to mind is that of Congressman Steve King from the 4th district. Stopping by to see him is a rite of passage for any presidential hopeful every four years and his endorsement is widely sought after. He’s also been a very popular figure in the state garnering solid approval ratings. All of that makes it rather strange to hear that he’s drawn a challenger in the state’s congressional primary coming up in June. State Senator Rick Bertrand is the guy looking to take a run at him and he seems to feel that the time is right. (Des Moines Register)

State Sen. Rick Bertrand of Sioux City said Thursday he is running for Congress, challenging seven-term U.S. Rep. Steve King in a June primary for the Republican Party nomination in Iowa’s 4th District.

Bertrand, 46, a commercial developer, is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa who was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010. He and his wife, Tammy, have three children.

“I’m Rick Bertrand, I’m real, and I’m running!” Bertrand said in announcing his candidacy. He added, “I am a viable and credible candidate, and will pose the greatest challenge Mr. King has faced in 14 years.”

Bertrand lists a number of home grown issues as being critical to his challenge, but there’s no disguising that he’s in the court of King Corn and plans to hit King on that subject. He even mentioned these agricultural based concerns when tweeting about his announcement.

This may sound strange to outside observers since King is well known as a supplicant to the corn farmers and the ethanol lobby. So why would anyone choose to go after him on that score? It all comes down to Ted Cruz. There is still a perception that Cruz is opposed to ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard, but he drew King’s endorsement in the GOP presidential primary. As the Iowa State Daily reported recently, that’s stuck in a few people’s craws.

Bertrand’s run comes as King, who has mostly been a popular figure in conservative politics in Iowa, has faced heat for backing Ted Cruz in the Iowa Caucus. Cruz repeatedly said he was against the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which is popular in Iowa, and King supports, but King decided to back him anyway.

Bertrand told the Sioux City Journal Wednesday that King has become ineffective as he courts a national reputation in Congress.

“I am not going in there to be a national figure,” he said. “I am going to be likable and effective.”

As I’ve written here before, Ted Cruz’s “opposition” to ethanol and the RFS is a bit overblown, particularly in light of the editorial he penned for the Register shortly before the presidential caucus. But even with that seeming softening of his stance (calling for the “expiration” of the mandate rather than his previous position of wanting an immediate repeal) he was probably still tougher on ethanol than anyone else running against him at the time. With that in mind, perhaps Bertrand sees an opening. Color me dubious as to whether or not that would be enough to bring King down, but it once again highlights how embedded the corn / ethanol issue is in every aspect of Iowa’s politics.


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