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GOP leader won’t endorse Steve King’s reelection in competitive primary

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) speaks during a town hall meeting Jan. 26, 2019, in Primghar, Iowa.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) speaks during a town hall meeting Jan. 26, 2019, in Primghar, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to endorse Rep. Steve King in his primary election and shot down the Iowa Republican’s claim this week that he’d get back his committee assignments.

King, who is facing a tough primary challenge in June, said during a candidate forum Monday that he and McCarthy (R-Calif.) had reached an agreement that the party leader would advocate for King to regain his seniority and committee seats, which he lost after making remarks widely seen as sympathetic to white nationalists.

“Congressman King’s comments cannot be exonerated and I never said that,” McCarthy said Friday, echoing a response his office gave the day before.

McCarthy added that King will have the opportunity to make his case to the steering committee that decides committee assignments, but that he thought King “would get the same answer he got before.”

The House GOP Steering Committee voted unanimously to strip King of his posts in early 2019 after the controversial congressman was quoted by the New York Times questioning how the terms “white nationalist, white supremacist” became “offensive.” The move followed years of mainstream Republicans distancing themselves from King over his inflammatory comments about race and immigration.

King’s primary opponents have highlighted his absence on committees as evidence that King has become powerless and ineffective in Washington.

His main opponent, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, has received support from groups such as the Chamber of Commerce as well as from local, state and federal elected Republicans.

Typically, party leadership backs their incumbents, but King isn’t getting any support from on high.

McCarthy, when pressed about whether he would support King’s reelection or support his challenger, said he was staying neutral and would leave it up to voters in Iowa to decide.