DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — After eking out a narrow election victory after allegations he had met white supremacists, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King promised Wednesday to even more forcefully state his views in the future, saying his "head is bloodied but unbowed."
The victory over Democrat J.D. Scholten came amid outcry over his association with white supremacist groups, which he says is false, and his hardline views on immigration, abortion and gun rights. King, 69, claimed his reputation has been sullied by these election attacks.
"I'm going to march through this. I'm going to take on all charges, take on all challengers. We're going to fight to put this record in order," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
King said he appeared to be cruising to an easy victory, with some polls showing him 20 points ahead. He said unexpected attacks began after news reports surfaced in September and October about his stance on immigration — he was described in one as "the most anti-immigrant member of Congress" — and a trip he took to Austria and his meeting there with members of the Freedom Party, which is associated with a man once active in neo-Nazi circles.
Organizations and individuals stirred by the allegations poured money into the Scholten campaign, giving it millions of dollars for television ads.
"I don't know if anybody in America has taken that kind of nasty, negative, dishonest attack and withstood it," King said.
Since he's had no need to run television ads in previous elections and hasn't had to raise money like other candidates, his campaign wasn't prepared to match the onslaught . He estimated he spent around $130,000 for advertising this campaign against Scholten's millions.
Scholten's campaign did not immediately respond to messages.
King also vowed he'll no longer passively allow news media or opponents mischaracterize his statements or take them out of context.
"That's something I'm changing," King said. "I have refused all these years to defend myself of these baseless charges. I will be defending myself."
He banned Iowa's largest newspaper from his election night events in Sioux City. King's son, Jeff King, said the campaign denied credentials to The Des Moines Register and "any other leftist propaganda media outlet with no concern for reporting the truth."
Steve King said he's hesitated to hold previously announced town hall meetings because opponents like to hijack them for their own publicity, but he plans on doing them again.
King, a construction company owner, began his career in politics in 1996, when he was elected to the Iowa Senate. He was re-elected in 2000 but opted to run for an open seat in Congress in 2002 created through redistricting and has served the rural, agricultural 4th District since.
Since first winning election to the U.S. House, King's vote total has dipped below 60 percent only twice. He defeated Scholten on Tuesday with just 50 percent of the vote.
As a state senator, he's credited with drafting the Iowa law that is considered one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation because it bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It has been repeatedly challenged in the courts, but advocates hope it will be the case that finally leads to the reversal of legalized abortion in the U.S.
His firm belief on abortion is one of the reasons he believes wealthy donors from the East and West coasts wanted to defeat him.
"If they think this is going to intimidate me into backing off of these values we believe in, they're going to find out otherwise day by day and day a night because it never was about a political position," he told supporters Tuesday night. "It was always about a conviction and a calling."
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