Student organizers met outside Parks Library Thursday with picket signs and megaphones in hand to rally against Republican incumbent Congressman Steve King.
Passersby gathered over time until more than 50 people circled the event speakers, which featured people from Iowa State College Democrats, the Society for the Advancement of Gender Equality (SAGE) and a former member of Iowa State’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists.
Iowa State College Republicans also made an appearance to counter the rally’s anti-King spirit. At one point a group of College Republicans took stance behind the organizers with “King for Congress" signs held high.
“Real Iowans don’t want Steve King!” said Taylor Hintch, a SAGE group leader. “He’s anti-woman and he’s anti-choice. Steve King is a white supremacist, and that isn’t name calling. It’s a serious accusation.”
It isn’t just King’s political opposition that’s taken to recent criticism of him. On Tuesday, the chair of the Republican National Congressional Committee issued a statement denouncing King for his controversial speech concerning diversity and multiculturalism.
“I’m mixed race, I’m queer, I’m Jewish and I’m a socialist,” said former Iowa State student Javier Miranda. “The only way Steve King could hate me more is if I was a woman.”
The crowd laughed, but fell into silence as Miranda expanded his criticisms from King to the system that put him into power.
“We can vote out King, but he’s not the only monster in power,” Miranda said. “Voting is the least you can do, we need to be active like this all the time.”
Miranda is no stranger to activism. He helped facilitate the tuition protests earlier in October. He admitted that this year he registered as an independent because he felt both parties were failing American citizens.
“Why didn’t we make the right decisions when Democrats had the majority?” Miranda asked his fellow organizers. “Why didn’t we get universal healthcare then? The truth is we need to be the ones organizing with our neighbors and fellow workers to get things to change.”
Jimmie Bragdon, senior in industrial engineering and member of College Democrats, criticized King’s stance on healthcare, which Bragdon says affects him personally.
“I have Type 1 diabetes, which qualifies as a pre-existing condition,” Bragdon said. “King doesn’t support covering preexisting conditions. We need someone in congress to represent us, because I could end up paying $1,000 every month for the medicine I need to live.”
Other speakers criticized King for his dismissals of anthropogenic climate change. Sehba Faheem, junior in biological systems engineering, stressed the impending dangers of environmental degradation.
“We need someone who will work with industries to make sure we can live on this planet,” Faheem said. “Steve King barred the EPA from regulating greenhouse gasses and protecting endangered species. He’s not good for Iowa, and J.D. Scholten will make our district better.”
Other speakers also gave their support for Scholten, the Democratic challenger for King’s congressional seat. Just as organizers were critical of King, the College Republicans had their own critiques of Scholten.
“I understand that he’s traveled a lot with his baseball career, but he doesn’t even own his own home out here,” said Tony Damiano, member of College Republicans and graduate student in statistics. “His dad owns his home.”
It’s true that Scholten lives in his parent’s old house, but Scholten said he has been paying the mortgage for the past year and a half he’s lived within the walls of his childhood home.
“It’s true, I’m not a homeowner,” Scholten said. “My parents live out of state now, so it’s hard to get all the paperwork in order. We’re working on the getting the house put in my name, but it’s a long process.”
Damiano also said that Scholten was unclear on what he stood for, and that he takes donation money from outside the state.
“He says he’s a pro-choice Catholic, and he didn’t really explain his position to me when I met him,” Damiano said. “He also gets campaign donations from Maine and California, all sorts of states outside Iowa. How can we trust him to represent Iowans?”
Scholten has raised more than $1.6 million since he began his campaign two years ago, and he said it’s true some of that money comes from out-of-state donors.
“In the past four quarters we’ve outraised King in all 39 counties in District Four,” Scholten said. “We do get money from out of the state, but that money isn’t coming from corporate super PACs. It’s coming from real people.”
Damiano went on to say the people of District Four really like King. That’s why they’ve voted him back into office since the district was created in 2012.
“His constituents want him, they’ve made that clear,” Damiano said.
He also pointed out that Rep. Steve Stivers, the committee chair who denounced King, didn’t support Donald Trump either.
“People will hate on people that are different,” Damiano said. “The GOP is splitting, but I think King is a great congressman and he represents his district.”