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Steve King limits town hall meetings in current political climate

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Steve King town hall meeting

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks during a town hall-style meeting at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City in August 2010. The annual August recess gives members of Congress a chance to hold town hall meetings in their home states. King said he has no plans for town halls in August 2017.

SIOUX CITY | U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has no plans to hold town hall meetings, the sort of events many federal lawmakers schedule in the weeks-long August recess to hear from constituents.

King is holding fewer town halls than he used to, and that makes him different from other Republican lawmakers in the tri-state area.

King, who represents a Northwest Iowa congressional district, in a recent Journal interview said he will attend county fairs to meet people, plus he'll be busy with a trip to Tanzania. Additionally, he is worried about town hall violence, after the shooting of a Republican lawmaker at a congressional softball practice.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was severely wounded in the June 14 shooting and was finally released from hospitalization six weeks later.

"What I hope to do is attend as many county fairs, and the state fair, as possible. That is part of my strategy (for August)," King said.

The trip to Tanzania was for King "to greet the Tanzanian miracle kids from the tarmac as they walk down from the plane that will return them in mid- to late August. That is something I have been setting up for weeks, so that will take a chunk out of the month of August."

He had a hand in getting three young people to Sioux City for medical treatment after a wreck in Tanzania.

On Friday, King tweeted: "#TanzaniaMiracleChildren arrive back home in Tanzania. Doreen, paralyzed in May, walking off the plane in August to huge homecoming."

"Just to put it bluntly, I do tele-town hall meetings, where we will have thousands of people on the phone. I do meetings all over the place, with people that request them, that have policy issues that they want to discuss with community leaders. But 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 said.

King in March previously told the Journal the nation was in a period where people were being paid by left-wing causes to disrupt town hall meetings.

He continued that thread of thought in a July interview: "It is a lot more clear" that lawmakers are at risk, "with Steve Scalise lying in a hospital bed with a bullet through his hip. That shooter was radicalized by the political rhetoric that has permeated our dialogue in this country...He had a hit list in his shirt pocket of Republicans he wanted to kill and set about trying to do that."

In contrast, U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., on July 28 sent out a release listing eight town hall meetings, including one in Norfolk, over the first three days of the August recess.

Iowa State University Professor Steffen Schmidt said Iowans like the opportunity to weigh in during such town halls, even though the turnout is at times low.

"People always like to go and bend the ear of their politicians. But often it is a narrow group of people who go and the vast majority are busy, working, taking care of kids, or don’t care," the professor said.

Schmidt said having town hall meetings can be risky, with the possibility of "protesters and other disrupters" showing up to rankle the lawmaker.

Schmidt added, "I would add that with citizen input like everything else in life, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so there is nothing wrong with loud voices articulating their concerns and input."

King used to hold public meetings during the August recess more frequently, including one on Aug. 30, 2010, in Sioux City, where Democratic opponent Matt Campbell appeared mid-meeting and challenged King to a agree to hold a later debate. An unamused King responded that he didn't appreciate the stunt.

In August 2014, King held a week of town hall meetings in Iowa.

Last year, the Journal did not receive any releases from King's congressional office about public meetings over the seven-week recess in late summer 2016.

Woodbury County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Dumkrieger said he's disappointed King isn't planning to air his work in Washington in town halls.

"It is his duty as a United States representative to listen to and represent the people of Iowa's 4th District, even if we did not vote for him. I don't know if he is scared to answer for his record or just choosing to prioritize something other than his job, but I hope that Representative King will remember his duty to our community and hold a public town hall soon," Dumkrieger said.

Other Siouxland federal lawmakers hold more plentiful town hall meetings. U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., released several media announcements of his public events for August 2016, eventually holding 22 public events, including seven town halls.

On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., Smith will hold a public meeting at City Hall in South Sioux City to hear from people about farm bill issues.

This August in South Dakota, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds have had several public events.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, continued his typical practice of holding town hall meetings announced to media. He also kept up with sending tweets recapping how many people showed up and the topics they asked about. On Aug. 29-31, Grassley will hold three town hall meetings in Primghar, Sibley and Mapleton.

"Grassley has made a brand out of 'Going Full Grassley' by visiting all 99 counties and that has been valuable for him," Schmidt said.


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