In each of his six previous races for re-election to the U.S. House, we endorsed Republican Steve King before the general election because we felt he was, despite our criticisms of him, the stronger candidate and better fit for this congressional district.
However, in primary opponent Rick Bertrand, King this year faces a challenger unlike anyone he faced before.
Like King, Bertrand - a successful businessman and state senator from Sioux City - holds conservative positions and views on domestic issues, including economic and social issues, in line with those of Republicans in the largely conservative 4th District.
In addition, in our view, Bertrand embraces an agenda focused more on the wants and needs of the 4th and less on national and international issues than the agenda pursued by King.
Finally, we believe Bertrand practices a more pragmatic approach to lawmaking, including an understanding of the need for compromise, and possesses a more effective package of personal traits, including less penchant for use of inflammatory rhetoric, than does King. We believe Bertrand's collegiality and less-combative, less-controversial style would work to the advantage of our district in Washington.
For these reasons, The Journal today endorses Bertrand for the Republican nomination to the 4th District U.S. House seat in the June 7 primary election and the right to face Democrat Kim Weaver in November.
This endorsement decision was difficult for us because we respect King and his service in Congress, but we have made no secret of our reservations about him, even when we endorsed him. Among the criticisms of King we have shared in this space: He is too rigidly partisan. Too often, he engages in incendiary language. He risks marginalization within the House by openly warring with House leaders, such as former Speaker John Boehner. He seems, at times, more interested in making a national name for himself (on the issue of illegal immigration, for example) than attending to priorities at home. He spends too much time focused on moving the nation's political center to the right.
With Bertrand, we see not only a strong conservative, but a proven track record of private and public accomplishments. We admire the vision of Bertrand as both a businessman and legislator. Passionate, informed and articulate, he quickly became a Statehouse leader and strong voice for Northwest Iowa - within the area of economic development, in particular.
The fact Bertrand in 2010 became the first Republican in 30 years to win a state Senate seat in Sioux City and the fact he was re-elected to the seat in 2014 in a district closely split between Republicans, Democrats and Independents speaks well of his ability to appeal to and work with all political constituencies. Bertrand understands the need, on occasion, to reach across the aisle. For example, he deviated in 2015 from his customary position of opposition to a tax increase by voting to raise Iowa's gas tax. Partly due to the political courage Bertrand exercised in supporting what was a necessary increase, the gas tax hike passed. As a result, important road and bridge work in the state, including an expedited plan for the long-awaited completion of the Highway 20 four-lane project, received a crucial infusion of money.
We understand Bertrand faces a daunting task in this race, but we believe he represents the first viable alternative to King for Republican voters in our congressional district.