Democrat J.D. Scholten said Friday that his previous attempt to oust Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) helped shine a spotlight on the GOP lawmaker’s rhetoric toward immigrants and people of color.
“With our race there was a spotlight shined on his controversy, his racism, the hatred, the rhetoric that he uses and we know that those types of words, they have consequences,” Scholten told Hill.TV in an interview. “People are starting to wake up for that and see the vulnerability with him having three primary opponents and I won’t have one.”
A campaign spokesman for King didn’t immediately respond to Hill.TV’s request for comment.
Scholten this week launched his second bid against the nine-term lawmaker.
He told Hill.TV that many people, including residents of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District who are represented by King, are now starting to realize that words and inflammatory rhetoric have consequences following two mass shootings last weekend.
The suspected gunman in the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting that killed 22 people allegedly posted an anti-immigrant manifesto shortly before carrying out the attack at a busy Walmart near the U.S.-Mexico border.
King has a reputation for holding hardline views on immigration and has long been criticized for his ties to far-right groups.
Earlier this year, the Iowa Republican was stripped of his committee assignments for questioning how terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became “offensive” during an interview with The New York Times.
King later attempted to distance himself from the remarks, arguing that he doesn’t advocate for white nationalism or white supremacy and suggested that the Times misconstructed his comments.
King already has two GOP challengers and it’s unclear whether he will ultimately become the Republican nominee next year.
Scholten, who came within single digits of beating King in November, said he remains confident that he can ultimately win the primary race, even if King doesn’t become the Republican nominee.
“At the end of the day, we ran on what we’re standing for — and not just necessarily against Steve King and I think that’s one of the reasons how we moved the needle so much,” he said. “We just didn’t bash Steve King — it would be easy to do that.”