How Iowa Latinos Feel About Steve King’s Defeat

Screenshot of King in WHO debate

By Claudia Thrane

June 5, 2020

The day has finally arrived, a day many dreamt and thought would never come: Steven King is defeated. He was beat by state Sen. Randy Feenstra during the primary elections on Tuesday.

After 18 years in Congress, he became ineffective in representing Iowans that supported him in the past and Iowans in general. He turned into a laughingstock and was an embarrassment for our state.

Feenstra holds similar conservative beliefs as King on immigration, guns and taxes. He campaigned on being better able to help Donald Trump in office than King.

Still, many, including myself, are relieved and delighted that we do not have to deal with King’s bigotry and hatred anymore, even if we still have the man in the White House.

Throughout his career, King always seemed to take special satisfaction in attacking immigrants and people of color. He’s launched vile statements from his national and global platform, too many to list here, yet some come to mind.

In 2006, King suggested a border wall with Mexico could be electrified, saying, “we do that with livestock all the time.” In 2012 during a town hall, King said the U.S. should select the best immigrants, comparing the process with choosing hunting dogs. He warned in 2016 that cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end, while talking about immigration.

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And let’s not forget his 2013 comments about “dreamers,” claiming that “for every young immigrant who becomes a school valedictorian, there are 100 out there that, they weigh 130 pounds and they got calves the size of cantaloupes because they are hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

As King heads to his exit from Congress, I wanted to hear the reaction of Latinos on his defeat.

“Steve King losing this primary is just the beginning,” said Alexia Sanchez, 22, who recently moved to Des Moines from Iowa City. “We need to use this as momentum for November because the fight for better representation is not over for Iowans.”

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I was especially curious about a Latina who had direct exchanges with King in 2017. Vanessa Marcano-Kelly, 35, posted a tweet stating that her and other activists traveled to Washington D.C. from Iowa for a conference. The group had scheduled appointments with aides from most of Iowa’s Congressional delegation. King’s staff didn’t show up.

The Congressman poked back and tweeted, “Do you always lie in English?”

“I wish him a long life so he can witness the change and progress and empowerment of people of diverse races and ethnicity in this country, and that he can also see how his hateful behavior and rhetoric disappears from the soul of the United States,” Marcano-Kelly said. “Mr. Feenstra should now be forewarned that Iowans reject hate and bigotry.”

Rob Barron, 40, founder of the Latino Political Network, expressed his hope that someone as toxic as King never wins elected office again.

“Iowa will be a better state with Steve King no longer representing us in Congress,” Barron said. “I hope our state never elevates someone who demeans and denigrates Latinos and immigrants like him ever again.”

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Another person on Tuesday’s ballot was Sara Huddleston, the first Latina who won elected office in Iowa on the Storm Lake City Council. She is now the Democratic nominee in House District 11.

“It is about time that he got out of office,” she said. “King’s history of racism is over, however, Feenstra has the same beliefs as King, he just does not say it. I think he is more dangerous than King. The nightmare is not over. We need to do a better job out there. That is the reason voting participation is so crucial when it comes to your voice.”

But Feenstra replacing King is not a given. The Democratic candidate, J.D. Scholten, came within three points of winning in 2018. His campaign has focused on listening to and winning over Latino voters. During the pandemic, Scholten has held Zoom live events with Storm Lake City Councilmember Jose Ibarra and Dr. Rosanna Rosa, an infectious disease doctor, in Spanish and promoted the videos.

“There is a huge Latinx community throughout the whole district. Last time [2018], we tried to start organizing — to be honest, last time everything we did was just a little bit late and we didn’t really have the resources and the capability to really engage,” Scholten told Starting Line. “Well, this time, we have the time.”

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Scholten was not shy earlier this year in criticizing the lack of PPE for workers in the meatpacking plants as they became hotbeds for the virus.

“We’re seeing there’s this organic organizing for a lot of these workers and a lot of the families of the workers in a lot of these processing plants all throughout,” Scholten said. “That’s a large base of immigrants and Latino communities. We’re in there, we’re talking with folks and we’re organizing. We have two interns who are doing a lot of graphic design stuff, they’re first-generation Latina.”

Fortunately for Iowa Latinos, King will soon be part of Iowa’s history, a sad and dark history that made all Iowans look like we embraced his racist ideas. It is imperative that we learn from our history, so we do not make the same mistakes that normalized and encouraged discrimination, hatred, and bigotry.

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Iowans and Latinos cannot rest. We cannot rest until we are all represented with justice and respect in all areas that impact our lives. November is around the corner, and we must find ways to keep people safe while educating about the election process and registering voters.

It is going to take all of us to plant the seeds of acceptance and love towards people that do not look like us.


by Claudia Thrane
Posted 6/5/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.



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