Meet The Woman Trying To Take Steve King’s Congressional Seat

Kim Weaver is ready to challenge her district’s notoriously racist and sexist Congressman.

Editor’s Note: Citing threats to her safety, financial security and her mother’s ongoing health problems, Kim Weaver withdrew from the Congressional race on June 3.

You probably know Iowa Congressman Steve King on account of his unapologetic racism. On March 12, the hard-right politician quoted an Islamophobic tweet by a Dutch nationalist with the nauseating statement “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” a comment that was later praised by alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former KKK grand wizard David Duke.

The same day, like many disgusted Americans, Kim Weaver replied to the tweet and condemned his remarks. But unlike many disgusted Americans, she could soon take his place in Congress — come 2018, she will be vying to unseat King in the House of Representatives.

In the past few weeks, political pundits have started assessing the midterm battles that could wrestle three-branch control from the GOP; in particular, sights have been set on the House of Representatives, where Democrats have the best shot of taking back power. Few of these races demand more attention than the one in Iowa’s 4th Congressional district, where Weaver is looking to defeat a man who has come to personify the most debased aspects of the new hyper-conservative, Trumpian agenda. (So far, no other contenders, Democrat or Republican, have entered the fray.)

Weaver is keenly aware of what she’s taking on.

Weaver is looking to defeat a man who has come to personify the most debased aspects of the new hyper-conservative, Trumpian agenda.

“I don’t think King’s views have changed or have become more racist,” she explains during a phone interview with The Establishment. She’s right: King has a history of far-right, white nationalist commentary, from suggesting the Mexico wall have electrical wire fencing just like a livestock farm, to claiming Planned Parenthood advocates for child prostitution, to calling the children of immigrants “drug mules” with “calves the size of cantaloupes,” to backing up Todd Akin’s statement that women can’t get pregnant from rape.

The difference, Weaver claims, is that “now [King] feels he can do anything and get away with it,” the result of a presidential administration that itself employs white nationalists.

If King is usurped, it’ll demonstrate that he can’t get away with it, while sending a powerful message: Americans are prepared to use their votes to push back against growing hate.

An Opponent To Watch

There are already indications that this is a much different race than last year’s, when Weaver also took on King, and lost. (She notes that many Iowans were more focused on the presidential and Senate elections than those in the House of Representatives.)

According to the Sioux City Journal, Weaver’s campaign raised over $104,000 in just four days following her announcement to run this time. Replying to King’s initial tweet, she says, helped her campaign win widespread support — but she already had the framework in place to take advantage of the opportunity.

“If you want me to run, you’re going to have to help me to raise some money and step up to the plate as volunteers,” she explained at a community soup supper on March 4 to a crowd of Iowans. “If I can raise $100,000 by the beginning of September, and have volunteers in every county, I’ll run again.”

So far, this month’s donations have exceeded $200,000 — meaning in a month, she’s brought in more than the $160,000 she pulled in during the entirety of her last campaign. She already has over 200 volunteers signed up from each county in her district, and she’s earned some powerful backing; recently, political commentator and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich endorsed her campaign in a Facebook post.

While challenging someone like King is notable, Weaver is more than an opponent to a bigot; she is, in her own right, a formidable contender, offering a dramatically different vision for her district and the country.

While Iowa native Weaver is relatively fresh on the scene — she participated in her high school debate team, but hasn’t previously worked directly in politics — she isn’t new to advocating for fellow Iowans. She worked in social services for over 20 years, serving the eldery and those with mental and intellectual disabilities in Sheldon, her current place of residence.

Weaver stresses that “I represent decency and diversity over division and hate.” And this represents more than a moral victory over King — it makes her, she argues, better suited to serve her district.

‘I represent decency and diversity over division and hate.’

To pander to extreme ring-wing conservatives and Tea Party Republicans, King often votes directly against his constituents’ interests and needs (much like, it turns out, our current president) — a fact that motivated Weaver to run the first time around.

Weaver, for example, was taken aback when she learned that King introduced a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Care entirely on January 3 of this year. “I work with seniors and when he proposed making Medicare a voucher system, I thought, ‘oh, no’,” she says. “We have an aging population in this district and his proposals would actually hurt the people here.”

Since she already holds progressive platforms in a traditionally red region, the Trump administration hasn’t radicalized her politics, but her stance on health-care reform has shifted slightly. For instance, she focused on expanding Medicare to young people and reforming the ACA in her last campaign, but now, she stresses the need for healthcare for all.

Additionally, she says, “[My support for] comprehensive immigration and a path to citizenship hasn’t changed at all, but it’s even more important now. I did a lot of research on immigration reform and what surprised me the most is the American Farm Bureau Federation counts [immigration reform] as a priority legislative plank.” The AFBF calculated mass deportations will cost the agriculture industry $30 to $60 billion in output, as well as increase the cost of domestic food products up to 6%.

Weaver’s website also outlines her plans to make college more affordable, provide student loan debt relief and financial security for senior citizens and families, protect the environment, and move toward energy independence. In a Midwest state that favored Trump by 9 percentage points, and a district where Trump dominated Clinton by 27 percentage points, these may seem like impossibly liberal views for constituents to endorse.

But Weaver, in a sign of what may be ahead in other district races as well, doesn’t see it that way.

Communicating With Trump Voters

Last fall, coastal liberals were desperately trying to understand the Heartland’s attraction to Trump. Stories like David Wong’s Cracked story, “How Half of America Lost Its F**king Mind,” and Jonna Ivin’s STIR Journal essay, “I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump,” went viral. Books about whiteness and racial histories, such as Carol Anderson’s White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, became bestsellers. Even former Blaze commentator and Rapid City, South Dakota native Tomi Lahren has spoken out about how liberal media organizations cater to coastal audiences over the country’s “silent majority,” a racially-coded phrase for white Midwestern voters.

For those unfamiliar with northwest and north central Iowa, Weaver describes her future constituency as “very rural and conservative with pockets of progressives…with lots of hog buildings, poultry, and dairy barns.” Republican voters, she adds, depend on Fox News and local newspapers for their media consumption, and aren’t familiar with King’s offensive statements and controversial actions. That’s why educating voters is crucial — but because her district is so large, there are seven different media markets, which makes advertising extensive and exposure particularly difficult.

“My biggest challenge is getting in front of enough people to talk about the issues,” she says. “And say, ‘here’s what Steve King’s done and this can hurt you in a very real way. Your financial future, health, your family’s financial security — [King] is threatening those things.’”

Once she talks to voters face-to-face, she’s able to communicate with a wide range of voters by discussing the issues at stake. In fact, during her last race, she’d often see “Weaver for Congress” lawn signs alongside “Trump/Pence 2016” ones.

Iowa is more politically diverse than many might assume; it has roughly as many registered Democrats as Republicans. And it isn’t exclusively rural, small towns. According to 2010 census data, 64% of the population lives in in a metropolitan area. Additionally, Sioux County has the highest number of registered Republicans in the state, but is also a registered sanctuary county and receives federal funding because of it.

It is not, in other words, a lost cause for progressives — and Weaver is keen to support and encourage others to push for change even in states stereotypically thought of as unbendingly conservative.

To break down barriers, Weaver encourages progressive candidates to focus on the issues above all else. Right now, many voters are feeling powerless, but supporting a candidate that aligns with their values can re-energize them.

“We have to have our voice out there…we can’t change hearts without information, passion, and dedication,” she emphasizes. “It’s not just about you winning; it’s about getting the message out there. Too many people have given up on spaces they thought they couldn’t win.”

Start with school boards, city council, and water commissions. Do it because you’re passionate, she adds, and know how to find that energy in others.

“If you see another progressive who would be a good candidate, encourage them, and if they decide to get in, help them and don’t abandon them,” she adds. “And if you’re going to volunteer, show up, because people will rely on you.”

Like many other unlikely candidates, Weaver was approached about running for office a few years ago. Community leaders, like herself, were fed up with King’s inadequacy — and sometimes, enough outrage is all it takes to enact political change.

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