(JTA) — The political action committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition is supporting a primary challenger to Rep. Steve King of Iowa, whose record includes inflammatory comments condoning white supremacists and anti-Semites.
Supporting a challenger to a sitting Republican member of Congress is a “rare step” for the Republican Jewish Coalition, the group pointed out in announcing the move. But it said it had stopped backing King years ago.
King was removed from two House committees in 2019 after he told a New York Times reporter that he wondered why the term “white supremacist” had become offensive. The previous year, he met with members of the far-right Freedom Party, founded by a former SS officer, in Austria after participating on a trip to Poland sponsored by a Holocaust education group. And Jewish leaders in Iowa condemned King for expressing anti-immigrant rhetoric similar to that of the shooter who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018.
“We have made it clear for some time that Rep. King does not represent the values of the Republican Jewish Coalition or the Republican Party,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “We commended the January 2019 decision by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the House Republican Steering Committee to remove Rep. King from his committee posts.”
Instead, the group will support Randy Feenstra in his bid to unseat King, who first entered Congress in 2003. Feenstra, who is serving his third term in the Iowa State Senate, “is a staunch conservative who supports President Trump’s policies,” Brooks said in his statement.
The Republican Jewish Coalition endorsed a challenger in a different primary earlier this spring. But it withdrew its support after it emerged that the challenger in the Kentucky Congressional race had posted racist comments on Twitter.