SIOUX CITY -- Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday she won't ask embattled Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King to resign or not seek reelection in 2020, saying "that is a decision that has to be made by Steve."
Reynolds, U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst have all expressed disgust with King's recent quote in the New York Times in which he asked "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" But the governor says it's not up to prominent Republican leaders to ask King step bow out for the good of the party.
"I just hope he is doing some serious reflection on what is best for the people of the 4th District," Reynolds told the Journal editorial board Friday.
During the 45-minute meeting, Reynolds acknowledged she was familiar with the Journal's Jan. 15 editorial in which the daily newspaper said, "If (King) cares deeply about citizens of the 4th, and we believe he does, King should do what is in their best interests and step down from office."
The editorial came in the wake of the GOP House leaders stripping King of all his committee assignments for the next two years, and the entire House overwhelmingly approving a resolution intended to rebuke King for the comments.
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King, of Kiron, was an honorary co-chairman for Reynold's 2018 gubernatorial campaign, but since her narrow victory in November over Democrat Fred Hubbell, she has distanced herself from the nine-term congressman, who has drawn widespread criticism in recent years for frank comments on immigration and race and support for far-right politicians and parties in other countries.
In December, Reynolds said King's close 3-percent win in November over J.D. Scholten, a Democrat from Sioux City, "was a very, very strong signal that (Iowans) are not happy with" the incumbent. She added King should consider whether his rhetoric and actions represent the "values" of the district.
At Friday's meeting with the Journal editorial board, Reynolds repeated her stance that she will remain neutral in 2020 primary in the 4th District, where a growing number of candidates are lining up to challenge King.
Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, a former state legislator from Sioux City, was the latest to enter the race Thursday, joining state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull, and former Irwin Mayor Bret Richards. Story County Supervisor Rick Sanders, of Ames, and Cyndi Hanson, a college administrator from Sioux City, who lost to King in the 2018 GOP primary, also are considering a run.
King has scheduled a town hall meeting for 9 a.m. Saturday in Primghar, Iowa, his first public appearance since his quote in the Times story ignited a major backlash.
King has denied accusations that he is a white supremacist or white nationalist, saying he considers himself a Nationalist fighting to preserve Western Civilization.
In an email last week, King tied himself to President Donald Trump, noting the Times "relentlessly and dishonestly attacks" the Republican president and now is "coming after me by shamelessly twisting my words, quoting me out of context, and using their Leftist comrades in the media to parrot their false talking points."
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