Congressman Steve King and his Republican Primary challenger Rick Bertrand met tonight in their only face-to-face forum of the campaign.
Bertrand, a 46-year-old state senator from Sioux City, presented himself as a “fresh face” and “new blood” who were serve no more than 10 years in congress. King stressed the value of his “institional knowledge” after serving 14 years in the U.S. House.
“Look at Chuck Grassley and see how he’s doing. He’s a very effective United States Senator today,” King said.
Bertrand replied: “The difference is Chuck Grassley is relevant. Chuck Grassley is the head of a committee.”
A few moments later, King said: “My opponent is a candidate because I am effective…His supporters, his benefactors are angry because I endorsed a candidate for president and he won.”
King endorsed Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who won Iowa’s 2016 Caucuses.
Bertrand said it was time to “get new people involved” in congress.
“We’ve had a decade and a half of people standing at the polar opposites and barking at the moon,” Bertrand said. “I think we’re ready for a change.”
Bertrand said King missed a “golden opportunity” before the Iowa Caucuses to publicly pressure Cruz to embrace the federal ethanol production mandate. King said he has a “long record in support of renewable fuels,” but King said it would have been “ridiculous” to stand on the same stage with Cruz and criticize the candidate he was backing.
“There’s more to this country than the RFS alone,” King said. “That’s not the only yardstick. It’s one of them.”
Bertrand suggested King had abandoned the RFS in favor of a “non-Iowa agenda.” Bertrand used his closing statement to mention a tweet King sent on Caucus night that relayed a CNN story about one of Cruz’s rivals.
“I’ve learned from the Ben Carson people…If anyone on Tuesday gets a text or a tweet from the congressman that says I’m dropping out on Tuesday, please disregard it,” Bertrand said.
Tonight’s hour-long forum was co-sponsored by KSCJ Radio, KTIV Television and The Sioux City Journal.