Birds of a feather



Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, compared immigrants to dirt in an audio released by The Weekly Standard, a conservative DC publication. To wit: There’s a lot of dirt washing in over the border, the redneck said to King at the wingnut gathering, and the congressman agreed and joked about immigrants being dirt. King’s spokesman said he was really talking about the radical left-wing media. Such as The Weekly Standard and the Sioux City Journal, which endorsed his opponent for the first time in nine elections?

To which Gov. Kim Reynolds responded in Ottumwa on Tuesday:

“I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the Fourth District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that.”

King decided those values and elocuted them loud and clear many times over many years long before Reynolds named him her 2018 campaign chairman. She won by three and so did he, so the governor-elect has little room to lecture the white supremacist from Sac County. King said as much. His office called Reynolds and King “birds of a feather.”

She can’t just walk away from that tarbaby.

The very same people who think that refugees from violence in Honduras are dirt voted for King and Reynolds having heard it all before. Spare us the act of surprise and dismay. Most people decided that stacking the courts with anti-abortion judges is more important than being shamed by a white supremacist who consorts with neo-Nazis and who hasn’t been able to produce a Farm Bill on time. They think it’s acceptable to lock the dirty children of refugees in cages at the sweltering border, or to deny black children in Chicago food stamps because their mother can’t find work, in defense of the power structure in place.

It is the governor, not King, who needs to sort out her values. He has made up his mind.

Fortunately for us, JD Scholten, D-Sioux City, gave King the run of his career. This week, the amiable former pitcher cum populist climbed into his Winnebago camper named Sioux City Sue and headed back on the road to begin the next campaign for the values of the Fourth District.

“Rural Iowans are struggling with a depressed farm economy, skyrocketing health care costs and continued depopulation as young folks move to more thriving economies. I’m convinced that if we continue listening to their voices, we can eventually dethrone Steve King,” Scholten wrote this week in USA Today, in what amounted to a national fundraising pitch.

Good on Scholten. Keep on trucking. King needs to do something else. Not that Reynolds needs to tell him or us. It’s the Fourth District that will determine its values, and that conversation is underway.

Hart deserves talk

Friends in Des Moines say that Scholten is getting some talk in Democratic money circles to run against Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, in 2020. It must be flattering. He should stick to the business at hand: beating Steve King. A lot of names to challenge Ernst are batted around: of course, Tom Vilsack, who is 67 and enjoying life, and might want to run for President; State Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, who tried to run against Chuck Grassley but got bumped by Patty Judge; and Rob Sand, who just won the state auditor’s race and should stick with it awhile. And others. One name stands above the rest at this early stage: State Sen. Rita Hart, a farmer and retired teacher from Clinton County.

Hart was Fred Hubbell’s running mate in the governor’s race. Had she been atop the ticket, the results might have been different. She certainly would have run better in rural counties. She understands agriculture, small towns, country churches and statehouse politics. She is great on the trail — warm, engaging and smart on all the issues. Her colleagues in the Iowa Senate respect her on both sides of the aisle.

To win a statewide race, a Democratic candidate must at least compete in rural counties. Hart is in the best position of any name we have heard other than Vilsack’s. He is loved by Democrats and admired by moderate Republicans and independents. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne proved with congressional wins that the bench is deeper than many thought. Vilsack is not the entire hope and future for progressives.

To state the obvious, Hart is a woman. So is the new governor of Kansas. So is Joni Ernst. So is Kim Reynolds. Hello?

Rita Hart should be the presumptive favorite to take on Ernst on her own ground: rural Iowa. She knows trade and soybeans, she can talk health care for all, and she knows what families face from decades in a rural schoolhouse. Fred Hubbell may not be the most successful politician, but he does know how to attract real talent.