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No Debate: King won't air issues with Weaver

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SIOUX CITY | Voters in Iowa's 4th District won't have the opportunity this fall to see the district's two congressional candidates air issues in side-by-side fashion.

Incumbent Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, has nixed a public debate with his Democratic opponent, Democrat Kim Weaver of Sheldon.

In an interview with the Journal, King said he considered debating Weaver, but determined he had no compelling reason to take part, since people are already well versed in his issues on positions.

"There's no upside to it. There is nothing to be learned or gained," King told the Journal. "People know where I stand. I don't have people coming up to me, and saying, 'Where are you on Obamacare, where are you on national defense or border security?' "

Weaver, an ombudsman for a state office that oversees long-term care,  is making her first run for elective office, while King is seeking his eighth, two-year term.

Weaver's team had sought up to three debates prior to the Nov. 8 election. Weaver's campaign manager David Kelso on Wednesday said King refusing to debate "is pretty gutless."

"He's the congressional equivalent of the municipal worker caught sleeping in his truck on the side of the road. He's exactly the kind of politician that term limits were made for. His refusal to stand up like a man and make his case for why he deserves an eighth term is pretty disgraceful," Kelso said in a statement to the Journal.

Weaver also took King to task for his no-debate stance.

"The political consultants, which his Tea Party followers hate, would say he has everything to lose and nothing to gain. Making this, politically speaking, a smart move for someone thinking only of himself. But a debate isn't for him, and it isn't for me, it's for the voters of the 4th District. That's why I find his refusal to debate incredibly disrespectful," Weaver said.

An Iowa Public Television official confirmed there was an attempt to host a 4th District debate this year, but it didn't pan out.

King said he's never met Weaver and declined to assess her candidacy.

"I've never really formed an opinion. She's free to run for Congress and free to get her message out," he said.

King, a seven-term incumbent, has eschewed public debates in past election cycles. In his 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 re-elections, he did not debate his Democratic opponents. The Republican shifted gears to debate former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack in 2012, and also squared off in a 2014 debate with Democrat Jim Mowrer.

For the first time in his 14-year career in the House, King faced a Republican challenge this year from state Sen. Rick Bertrand of Sioux City. In a forum co-sponsored by the Journal at Morningside College, King and Bertrand took part in a televised debate four days before the June 7 primary, where King cruised to victory.

The 4th District covers 39 Northwest and North Central Iowa counties.

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