SIOUX CENTER -- Decked out in his red “Make America Great Again” hat, Dennis Moore made it clear what he thought of Rep. Steve King, who attracted just as many detractors as supporters at an appearance in Sioux Center Thursday.
“I think he’s doing a hell of a job,” Moore said.
King took a whirlwind tour of Northwest Iowa Thursday that culminated in a rare town hall-like gathering at the Sioux Center Public Library for a Sioux County Conservatives Pizza & Policy event.
While a good chunk of the crowd felt the same way as Moore, an equally large group gathered outside the library an hour before King spoke for what was called the “Assembly for Better Representation: District 4 Wants More.”
More than 60 people gathered for the event that attracted several potential challengers to King, including Democrat LeAnn Jacobsen of Spencer and Republican Cyndi Hanson of Sioux City, most of whom also swarmed the library when King spoke.
Hanson said she viewed the appearance as an opportunity to show people that there is another conservative option out there, while Jacobsen said she was invited by Sioux County Democratic Party chairwoman Kim Van Es and saw it as a chance to speak to constituents.
Commuters driving by honked at the crowd, some of whom held colorful signs that took aim at King’s policies and controversies and some said he didn’t accurately represent them or the people of the district.
Before his speaking engagement began, King commented on the matter.
“All they need to do is look at the polling and election results and they really shouldn’t be insulting the constituents here in this district,” he said.
During his talk, King spoke about pro-life policies he supports and wants to implement and gave a brief update on the status of the Farm Bill before he started taking written questions from the crowd.
One of the first questions centered on King’s controversial Facebook post from earlier this week that poked fun of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez. King had also touched on that subject with the press beforehand explaining that having a sense of humor is essential to visiting his Facebook.
King noted he doesn’t personally run his page, but he supports most of the content posted. The congressman also said that while what happened in Parkland was a tragedy, that one event should not dictate the future of gun laws in the country.
“If no one will rebut the unconstitutional statements that were made and sometimes the irrational things they are promoting, after a while it takes root in the country and then it’s too late be rational,” he said. “Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and say, ‘Think about what this is saying,’ and that’s what we are doing with the Facebook page.”
When he spoke to the crowd, King also laid some of the blame for school shootings on gun-free school zones and violent video games.
During the hour-long engagement, King answered questions about Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, which he is opposed to, ethanol, state’s rights, labor shortages in rural areas, how to resolve the mental health crisis in Iowa and a few other areas.
Despite the drastically differing views between attendees in the room, minus the occasional whisper or muffled sarcastic laugh, things were civil during the event.
After the event closed, a lot of the anti-King crowd left and King spent time chatting with some of his supporters who remained. When he asked how he thought the event went afterward, King was pretty positive.
“It didn’t look like it was going to be from the beginning, but it was a good night,” he said gesturing toward the back of the room where most of his detractors had stood. “People were polite, they were respectful, they were patient, they were good listeners and we got a fair number of questions from them and I think they got answers, so I call it a good night and I’m glad we did this and I think the people in here are, too.”