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SIOUX CITY -- The three Republicans challenging Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King say they want to debate the nine-term incumbent in the run-up to the GOP primary in June.

King's campaign team did not respond Wednesday to the Journal inquiry about debates. King has given interviews in which he expressed a willingness to debate.

“If there are debates… I’m ready,” King told a Iowa Public Radio reporter after his town hall meeting in Hampton in July. “I spend every day getting ready for them. I don’t have to go prep for them or read up. It’s what I do every day.”

King, an outspoken conservative whose comments on immigration, race and some other issues have sparked a national backlash in recent months, faces an intra-party challenge from Republicans Randy Feenstra, Bret Richards and Jeremy Taylor.

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Steve King close-up Le Mars Town Hall
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Steve King Le Mars Town Hall
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Steve King Le Mars Town Hall

In a news release, Taylor, a Woodbury County supervisor, said he is "encouraged by Steve King's willingness to work with the other candidates to make this happen, and I enthusiastically accept the challenge. Let's debate."

"I am confident that the voters are looking for a proven conservative who can hold this seat in the fall, and I look forward to making my case on the debate stage," said Taylor, who lives in Sioux City.

Matt Leopold, Feenstra's campaign manager, said in a statement Wednesday: "Sen. Feenstra is certainly open to the opportunity to highlight his record of conservative results in comparison to the other candidates in the congressional primary. We look forward to the opportunity in 2020, prior to the primary."

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Feenstra, a state senator from Hull, is the runaway leader in campaign fundraising through the first half of 2019. 

Richards, a health care official and former mayor of Irwin, Iowa, said Iowans deserve to know where candidates stand on district and national issues. Richards said the candidates have appeared together in some joint events, which were not debates.

"I also welcome a series of debates around the district, organized by civic groups or news organizations, so that the largest possible number of voters can see and hear for themselves our approaches to leading the Fourth District, Iowa and the country forward," Richards said in a statement.

Last week, King, Feenstra, Richards and Taylor attended a meeting with officials of the Plymouth County Republican Party.

There is one Democratic candidate in the field. J.D. Scholten, of Sioux City, who fell just short of pulling off one of the biggest national upsets of the 2018 midterm elections when losing to King by 3 percent.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly specified which candidates attend the Plymouth County Republican Party event.

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