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Biography

Elected: 2002, 6th term.

Born: May 28, 1949, Storm Lake, IA

Home: Kiron, IA

Education: NW MO St. U., 1967-70

Professional Career: King Construction Co. owner, 1975-2002.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Marilyn Kelly) , 3 children ; 6 grandchildren

Republican Steve King, who first won his seat in 2002, practices a brand of incendiary, in-your-face conservatism that is shared by his tea party-friendly House colleagues Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — who has called King her best friend in Congress — and Paul Broun of Georgia. He is best known for his outrageous rhetoric. In 2012 alone, King compared the process of awarding visas to immigrants to choosing a dog; speculated that President Barack Obama’s family could have conspired to fake his U.S. citizenship with a “telegram from Kenya”; and accused Hurricane Katrina victims of spending federal money on “Gucci bags and massage parlors.”

King was born in Storm Lake, in western Iowa, and attended Northwest Missouri State University, though he didn’t graduate. In 1975, he founded the King Construction Company. After building up his business, he launched his political career in 1996, at age 47, with his election to the state Senate, where he quickly gained a reputation as an ultraconservative. He opposed abortion rights, racial quotas and preferences, and same-sex marriage. He sponsored Iowa’s “God and Country” bill, which required Iowa schools to recognize that the United States “has derived its strength from biblical values,” and he was a driving force behind the state’s English-only law. On economic matters, King supported repeal of the state’s inheritance tax, and backed a 15% state income tax cut and a national right-to-work law.

When the U.S. House seat came open in 2002, there were four main contenders in the Republican primary. King ran as a strong conservative and as the only rural candidate and called for limiting federal control of local schools. King led in the June primary with 30% of the vote. Because no one candidate received the required 35% of the vote, the nomination was determined by a special party convention three weeks later. The 533 voting delegates needed three ballots to select a winner. King led on each ballot and defeated House Speaker Brent Siegrist of Council Bluffs, 272-253, in the final round. The general election outcome was never in doubt. Democrat Paul Shomshor attempted to paint King as too conservative for the district, and won the endorsement of the Omaha World-Herald, but fell far short, 62%-38%. The conservative National Review magazine heralded King as the “Great Right Hope.”

In the House, King has not been shy about sharing his hyper-partisan views and gets a fair amount of national press for controversial remarks. He has become one of the most vilified conservatives among liberals, and he also makes some Republicans uneasy. When King said in June 2010 that Obama “has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race on the side that favors the black person,” Colorado GOP congressional candidate Cory Gardner canceled a fundraiser at which the congressman was to speak. A Carroll, Iowa, Daily Times Herald columnist who assembled some of King’s quotes into a book, King Kong Krazy, calls him “maniacally nationalistic.”

The conservative super PAC American Crossroads, backed by top GOP political strategist Karl Rove, announced an effort in 2013 to discourage what it considers fringe candidates like King from running in primaries against more electable Republicans. The group’s president, Steven Law, cited King’s potential interest in running in the 2014 Senate race to succeed retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. “We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Law told The New York Times, referring to the Missouri conservative whose 2012 Senate campaign self-destructed with his comment that pregnancy cannot result from “legitimate rape.”

King makes no apologies for his style. “We’ve got to shoot from the hip sometimes,” he said of himself and Bachmann. “It’s not always ‘Ready, aim, fire.’ Sometimes it’s just time to fire.” He told The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil in October 2012, “To the common-sense world, I’m exactly in the center.” Of the American Crossroads effort, King said that it made him more inclined to seek the Senate seat. “If I would back up in front of Karl Rove’s initiative, that would just empower him, and he would go on state after state, candidate after candidate.”

King has been an outspoken proponent of tougher immigration laws. The House has twice passed his amendment to enforce a 1996 law that forbids localities from standing in the way if police officers want to report immigration information to the federal government. He advocates English as the official language of the United States. In April 2008, an Iowa district court judge ruled in favor of King’s challenge to state officials who had placed bilingual voting forms on state websites. In 2007, King, as the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, built a model fence on the House floor to show how simple it would be to construct a 2,000-mile fence on the border with Mexico.

As soon as Republicans formally took control of the House in 2011, King introduced a bill to end birthright citizenship, a controversial idea that had gained currency in conservative circles the previous year but was widely unpopular among Hispanics. “Steve King is positioning our party for disaster,” the Latino group Somos Republicans said in a statement. The measure went nowhere, but he reintroduced it in 2013. With Republicans in the majority, King was positioned to rise from ranking member to chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, but the gavel went instead to the less bombastic Elton Gallegly of California. King blamed Speaker John Boehner, whom he said “isn’t very aggressive on immigration.”

In other recent skirmishes, King got an amendment passed and attached to an appropriations bill to prevent funding for mifepristone, a drug that can be used to help end early pregnancies. During the battle over whether to raise the nation’s debt limit in the summer of 2011, King suggested that Obama could be impeached if he blocked debt payments. King later bucked the Republican leadership by voting against the deal raising the federal debt ceiling on the grounds that the spending cuts were too small.

On local issues, King has called for expansion of “value-added agriculture,” including biotechnology and ethanol production, to strengthen the local economy. He successfully promoted an expanded tax credit for small ethanol and biodiesel producers as part of the 2005 energy law.

In his reelection bid in 2004, King carried all but one small county and won63%-37% over Democrat Joyce Schulte. She ran again in 2006, accused him of “racist remarks” on immigration, and lost again, 59%-36%. King refused to debate her, saying that most voters already knew his views. After endorsing Republican Fred Thompson for president in 2008, he said in March that “radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets” if Barack Obama won. John McCain’s campaign condemned those remarks, but King declined to apologize. He briefly considered a bid for Iowa governor in 2010.

Republican presidential hopefuls in 2012, courting tea party voters, actively sought King’s endorsement in the Iowa caucuses. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania went on pheasant hunts with King. Many political observers assumed that he’d support Bachmann, who also ran for president that year. However, in the end, King decided to stay out of the race, and he did not make an endorsement.

He had his own reelection troubles that year. Post-2010-census reapportionment reduced Iowa from five to four congressional districts, putting King in the position of having to run in a newly redrawn 4th District (he had represented the 5th District). Included in the new 4th were heavily Democratic areas, including Cerro Gordo County (Mason City) and Story County (Ames, home of Iowa State University). His Democratic opponent was Christie Vilsack; her husband Tom Vilsack was Iowa’s governor and later became Obama’s secretary of Agriculture. Christie Vilsack scored some points by blasting King for failing to sign a Democratic measure to force a vote on the stalled 2012 farm bill. But King got popular Gov. Terry Branstad, who hails from the more Democratic portion of the district, to help him, and he escaped with a 53%-45% victory.

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Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Steve King
Votes: 169,141
Percent: 61.73%
Jim Mowrer
Votes: 104,873
Percent: 38.27%
2012 GENERAL
Steve King
Votes: 200,063
Percent: 52.97%
Christie Vilsack
Votes: 169,470
Percent: 44.87%
2012 PRIMARY
Steve King
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Steve King
Votes: 128,363
Percent: 65.75%
Matthew Campbell
Votes: 63,160
Percent: 32.35%
2010 PRIMARY
Steve King
Votes: 47,117
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Steve King
Votes: 159,430
Percent: 59.8%
Rob Hubler
Votes: 99,601
Percent: 37.36%
2008 PRIMARY
Steve King
Votes: 22,663
Percent: 99.3%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (66%), 2008 (60%), 2006 (59%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (62%)

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