Starting Line hears from Democrats throughout Iowa’s 4th Congressional District that Kim Weaver is likely to challenge Steve King in 2016, though a formal decision may still be a ways off. Weaver is a well-known party activist and local AFSCME member who serves on the IDP’s State Central Committee. She’s also the chair of the O’Brien County Democrats, and has gotten recognition in recent years for her role in putting together the SOLO Democrats – a joint organization of Democrats in Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon and Osceola counties in the Northwest corner of Iowa, the most Republican area of the state. Many Democratic candidates running for office now visit this Republican stronghold thanks to their efforts, getting good crowds in a place Democrats used to write off.
So far Weaver’s name is the only one that has come up much, though Democrats have occasionally seen primaries to go against King in 2004, 2006 and 2010, but none since the 4th District lines began in 2012. Even if one were to develop, Weaver would likely hold an advantage barring an extremely well-known opponent. She’s known to all of the major activists in the 4th District, a district where a candidate would probably only need several thousand votes to win the primary.
The chances of Democrats actually defeating King are very slim. They’ve fielded candidates in the last two cycles that they thought had a shot, especially after redistricting brought in some more Democrat-friendly counties, but both came up significantly short. Christie Vilsack got 45% of the vote in 2012 and Jim Mowrer earned 38% in 2014. In the five campaigns before redistricting, King received win percents of 62%, 63%, 59%, 60% and 66% in the old 5th District.
Weaver’s background of organizing Democrats in extremely Republican counties, however, could provide the party and her potential campaign with a nice benefit were she to run. Having Weaver travel the many Republican-leaning counties of the 4th District could help spread useful party-building best practices that have encouraged Democrats in Northwest Iowa to realize they aren’t the only ones around. And there’s often plenty of national Democratic activists and donors who like to help whoever is running against Steve King, ensuring there will be at least some extra financial assistance available.
by Pat Rynard