No compromises, promises the survivor of a rare special convention
State Senator Steve King said he is just starting to get a handle on the narrow victory awarding him a Republican congressional nomination from Iowa's sprawling 5th District Saturday.
"It means we're full speed ahead in a campaign," King told the Pilot-Tribune yesterday. "There's no let up until Nov. 5."
King defeated House Speaker Brent Siegrist 272 to 253 on the third ballot of a rare special convention called to pick a congressional nominee.
Though he barely won the nomination, King instantly becomes the overwhelming favorite to become Iowa's newest Congressmen because of the conservative nature of the 32-county district.
"This seat will be used to move the political center of gravity in Congress to the right," King told cheering delegates after claiming the nomination. "We are going to outwork (the opponent) and we are going to go everywhere."
In the first two rounds of voting, State Senator John Redwine of Sioux City and Council Bluffs businessman Jeff Ballenger were forced out of the race. About 17 of the potential delegates did not show up or did not vote in the third ballot, in which King beat Siegrist by 19 votes.
King vowed an intense voter turnout effort he said would bolster Republican chances up and down the ticket.
Council Bluffs businessman Paul Shomshor is the Democratic nominee but it would take a spectacular upset for him to win the seat. There are 55,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the new 5th District.
In the June 4 primary, King had collected the most votes but fell short of the 35 percent required to claim the nomination. That forced the scheduling of Saturday's special nominating convention in Denison.
This was the first time since 1964 that a nominating convention has had to be held in Iowa.
It has been King's primary organization that helped him get this far, and it will be that same group that helps him win in November, King said in a phone interview yesterday.
He said his campaign has had good people who have done a "tremendous" job. Now with the primary over, King said it will be "easier rather than harder" to work towards a victory in the fall.
"We have to be in many of the communities, with lots of parades and lots of county fairs," King said. "I'll try to hit as many of them as I possibly can to get to know people, and to let people get to know me."
King feels he ran a campaign that reached both Republicans for the June 4 primary and delegates for Saturday's convention. "We ran a strong campaign and reached into as many homes as possible," he said.
It is support King believes will continue on the campaign trail to November's general election.
"People that know me well have come out and supported me well," he said. "My job is to get out there so people have an opportunity to ask questions and to make comments. I'd take their input and work with it in the Iowa Senate, and I'll do the same in the United States Congress."
With Saturday's convention, that decision ends Siegrist's 18-year career in the State Legislature, but he took the defeat in stride.
"I feel so good about the process," Siegrist said. "I don't feel like I'm going home a loser."
Redwine is also leaving the Legislature and will be out of office next year.
"Thank you for the opportunity to go home to my family," Siegrist said. "I'm going to be happy for that opportunity."
Redwine had campaigned hard as a leader of the anti-abortion movement and the Sioux City physician said he would continue in that effort.
"This is an exciting time for Iowa," Redwine said. "Our state can lead the way."
Ballenger, a political unknown was making his first bid for public office. He spent nearly $500,000 on his unsuccessful try for the nomination.
Ballenger vowed to stay involved in politics
"I'm a third generation small businessman and a fifth generation Iowan," he said.
Competition at the convention was intense as 533 delegates gathered at Denison High School to select a nominee.
The location was chosen because the school's auditorium is air conditioned and that turned out to be blessing as temperatures soared past 95 degrees. Coincidentally, King, who was born in Storm Lake, once attended school there.
King had been the early favorite heading into the convention largely because he was the most conservative of the four candidates. His resume includes the push behind the controversial "English as Iowa's Official Language" legislation.
Activists who take the time and trouble to be elected as delegates tend to be more conservative than rank and file Republicans.
King left little doubt that he'll use the nomination to play to that conservative streak.
"I am a fiscal and social conservative," said King. "It's not about compromise if you want to get something done for Republicans."
King's nomination completes the ballot for fall elections in which at least three of the state's five congressional districts are expected to be competitive.
His nomination also alters legislative politics because he was not up for election to the state senate.
He will have to resign putting one more senate seat in play, but it is unlikely that Democrats can gain that seat because King's district is overwhelmingly Republican.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.