White supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has announced a series of town hall gatherings in the district he represents, despite previously declining to hold such events because of protests.
King, fresh into his ninth term in Congress after a narrow victory in November, said in a statement that he will be holding town halls in every county in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
“I am looking forward to hosting a town-hall in all 39 counties this year,” King said. “Town hall meetings are an opportunity for members of the public to express their concerns to me, and for me to deliver my constituents an overview of the work I am doing in Washington on their behalf.”
The first town hall will take place on Jan. 24, according to a schedule posted Monday to King’s congressional website, and the final one this year will be held in December.
The town hall tour is a departure for King, who has come under criticism for not spending enough time in his district. In 2017 he told the Sioux City Journal that he would not be holding in-person town halls — as representatives typically do when Congress is in recess — because “in this climate, to advertise town hall meetings, just so that protesters have a forum, just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
King barely campaigned in his district last year. He refused to debate his Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten, and bought his first television campaign ads only in the days directly before the election.
“He won’t debate his opponent and rarely holds public town halls,” the Des Moines Register editorial board wrote of King. “Instead, he spends his time meeting with fascist leaders in Europe and retweeting neo-Nazis.”
The board endorsed Scholten, calling it “a no-brainer for any Iowan who has cringed at eight-term incumbent King’s increasing obsession with being a cultural provocateur.”
King’s white nationalism came under heightened scrutiny in 2018, particularly after HuffPost uncovered an interview he gave to an Austrian publication associated with Europe’s neo-fascist identitarian movement.
King, who had routinely won re-election by more than 20 percentage points in a deeply conservative corner of Iowa, beat Scholten by only 3 points in November, despite having 70,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in the district.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Scholten tweeted Friday in response to news of King’s town hall tour.
For six months in 2018, Scholten drove around Iowa’s 4th District in an RV, visiting each of the district’s 39 counties and holding town halls. At night, he slept in the RV, which he often parked in Walmart parking lots.
“Rep. King feels the district is moving away from him, and with a much anticipated primary, he actually might focus on our district this cycle,” Scholten told HuffPost on Tuesday.
King’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why he has decided to start doing in-person town halls again.