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SIOUX CITY -- In her first trip to Iowa as a possible presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said the area's congressman, Steve King, has become too controversial for his racial comments and should resign.

Gillibrand was asked about King, a Republican who has faced calls to resign since his Jan. 10 comments about white supremacism, at her first of two events in Sioux City.

"I stand with candidates who want to replace him," she said, at Pierce Street Coffeeworks.

A half hour later, in speaking to a large group of reporters, Gillibrand returned to the topic saying, "I think it's disgraceful, what he said. I don't think he should be serving as a result."

Gillibrand appeared at the coffee shop with J.D. Scholten, the Democrat from Sioux City, who narrowly lost to King in November.

House Republican leaders voted Monday to take away all of King's committee assignments for the next two years in the wake of a New York Times story in which he was quoted as saying, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" The next day, the House overwhelmingly approved a resolution of disapproval intended to rebuke King.

“We have seen this playbook before … like when the media tried to defeat President (Donald) Trump by calling him a racist,” King wrote in a Wednesday fundraising email. "We know how that worked out, don't we?"

Twice in two weeks, two female Democratic U.S. senators came to Sioux City in their first Iowa swing while hearing out Iowans as they consider running for president in 2020.

The first was Elizabeth Warren on Jan. 5, and then Gillibrand on Friday. Earlier this week, Gillibrand announced forming an exploratory committee, the first step toward launching a presidential campaign. Her first stop in Iowa was in Sioux City, with subsequent events to come Saturday in Boone, Ames and Des Moines.

At Coffeeworks, Jeanette Hopkins said it is pleasing to see Sioux City figure prominently in the Iowa stops by Democrats who may pull the string on presidential campaigns.

"It is really cool that they are coming and that they are coming early," Hopkins said.

In a Journal interview, Gillibrand said Sioux City is in a red, or Republican, area, and similar to the district that leaned Republican where she was initially elected to the House from upstate New York. She said she wanted to hear about the challenges from Iowans, on such issues as having robust school districts and growing the rural economies.

Gillibrand, 52, an attorney who moved from the House to the Senate in 2012, said the direction of the nation is imperiled, since Trump has had a disastrous two years.

"Donald Trump ran as a disruptor," she said. "He has not fixed the rigged system."

Gillibrand said too much power lies with political action groups and lobbyists.

"You have to restore power to the hands of the people," she said.

At the coffee shop, she also answered several questions from Sioux City people about immigration and climate change. Linda Santi and Hopkins said they liked Gillibrand's answers.

"I liked her, I liked her honesty. I like that she has legislative experience, we need that," Hopkins said.

Additionally, Susan Leonard, of Sioux City, asked Gillibrand about U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, saying the two of them are strong friends. Gillibrand said that was so, and that they both agreed on the necessity of reducing sexual assault in the military branches.

Gillibrand added, "Joni and I go to bible study often."

Gillibrand held another Sioux City event in the late afternoon, at a house party fundraiser for Truman Club members of the Woodbury County Democratic Party.

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Government and education reporter.

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