It appears Steve King made one too many enemies during the Iowa Caucus thanks to his endorsement of Ted Cruz. Iowa’s ethanol industry was furious when King, a longtime friend of theirs, backed the one Republican candidate most hostile to the Renewable Fuel Standard. That’s led to efforts from some Republicans, including longtime GOP operative Nick Ryan, to recruit a challenger to King in the primary.
They may soon have their man: State Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City.
Multiple sources told Starting Line that Bertrand informed a Sioux City Chamber of Commerce meeting yesterday morning that he’s looking closely at running against King in the Republican primary. Several Republicans around the state had heard hints of Bertrand’s interest in a 4th District bid, but didn’t know anything specific about today’s meeting. Bertrand confirmed his interest in a Sioux City Journal article published this morning.
Bertrand is in his second term in the State Senate, representing a Democratic-leaning seat in Sioux City. He’s a businessman and entrepreneur, and plays heavily in real estate and development ventures, owning an Irish pub in a redeveloped area in Sioux City’s downtown. An attempt to move up to a Congressional seat would make sense given Bertrand’s highly ambitious personality.
Interestingly, one source reported that Bertrand said he’d likely be done with the State Senate, win or lose the primary, and that local Republicans should start recruiting a replacement (though that may have simply meant he won’t run for reelection in 2018, something he’s suggested before).
Defeating King would be no easy task in a Republican primary. Cruz performed exceptionally well in the 4th District, so while many farmers, ethanol leaders and some Republican insiders were very upset over King’s pick, it’s uncertain how much that will resonate with base voters.
King has been easily reelected to the Northwestern Iowa-based district by large margins, and whoever wins the primary would be a near-lock to win the district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 59,000 people.
Starting Line had heard that Senator Randy Feenstra was the original target of the ethanol industry’s recruitment plans. Feenstra represents the counties of Sioux, O’Brien and Cherokee, some of the most conservative in the entire state.
Bertrand’s decision doesn’t seem to revolve around the Cruz endorsement, though Bertrand was a high-profile supporter of Marco Rubio during the caucus. But he may yet get the important financial and organizational backing of those now wishing to unseat King.
King himself has spent much of the past several weeks on the campaign trail with Cruz, showing up at many of his events in South Carolina. He may soon have to refocus his attention on his actual constituents back home if this primary challenge develops further.
by Pat Rynard