King hosts near empty town hall in Grundy Center

Robert Maharry

On the heels of his latest controversial remarks, Republican Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) hosted a town hall meeting at the Grundy Community Center on Saturday morning, and just one constituent showed up.
Freelance photographer Brenna Norman of Cedar Falls, who was on assignment with Reuters, snapped a picture of the nearly empty room that quickly went viral. Reuters North American Editor Corinne Perkins tweeted it out a few hours after the event, and it racked up over 6,400 retweets and 20,000 likes.
“It was pretty interesting. I was assuming that he would get more (of a crowd) considering his recent comments,” Norman said.
The lone attendee, 21-year-old University of Northern Iowa student and Dike resident Jessica Birch, told Iowa Starting Line that she learned about the event from King’s Facebook page on Friday night and asked him about affordable housing issues. He responded by touting his role in reducing government programs that create a “disincentive” for work.
Grundy Center Police Chief Doug Frost and Sheriff Rick Penning told The Grundy Register that in the aftermath of King’s controversial comments about rape and incest during a speech in Urbandale last Wednesday, the Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. requested additional security due to a report of a “credible threat” against the Congressman (Penning had originally been notified of the meeting last Monday or Tuesday, by his own recollection). As a result, a total of five officers from the Grundy Center police department and the Grundy County sheriff’s office manned the event.
Frost added that when a King staffer asked him why the crowd was so small on Saturday morning, he didn’t have a definite answer. The congressman’s staff listed the town hall on his website but did not send any advance notice to local media as it has in the past.
“The State Fair is still going on. Maybe a lot of people went to that. A lot of people are camping,” Frost said. “But as far as why people aren’t coming, I couldn’t tell you why.”
Penning joked that Saturday’s crowd was “very manageable.”
“I talked to several people in the street, and they weren’t aware of it either,” he said.
At press time, King’s Washington, D.C. office had not responded to a request for comment. He is currently facing primary challenges from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Randy Feenstra of Hull, businessman Bret Richards of Irwin and Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City, and Sioux City Democrat J.D. Scholten—who nearly unseated King in the 2018 midterm election—recently announced that he would be running again in 2020. 
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