King bound for Colorado, whether Republicans want him or not

Representative Steve King won’t cancel his planned trip to Colorado this weekend, even though the conservatives he had planned to help don’t want to be associated with him. Via Swing State Project’s morning news roundup I found this Loveland Connection article following up on the controversy over King’s recent comments on race. King is not backing down on his claim that President Barack Obama’s “default mechanism” on race “favors the black person.” As I discussed yesterday, the comments prompted Colorado Congressional candidate Cory Gardner to cancel a fundraiser King was supposed to headline and got King uninvited from a Northern Colorado Tea Party rally to be held in Loveland. From the Loveland Connection piece:

King said he called both [Northern Colorado Tea Party director Lesley] Hollywood and Gardner on Tuesday after their cancellation announcements.

“I have spoken with her and Cory Gardner both, and neither one of them disagreed with what I said or the position I have taken,” King said in an interview.

Gardner’s campaign manager, Chris Hansen, flatly rejected King’s characterization of his conversation with the Northern Colorado congressional candidate: “That is not an accurate reflection of Representative Gardner’s views,” he said in an e-mail.

Hollywood was interviewed Tuesday morning but couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after King’s interview.

The Iowa congressman said he told Gardner and Hollywood he’d be in Colorado on Saturday.

“I pointed out to them that I’m coming to Colorado, that’s in my schedule and they’ll have to figure it out from there,” he said.

He declined to elaborate on his weekend plans: “We will make some arrangements so that works out to be effective.”

A spokesman for Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, a Republican Senate candidate who also will speak at the Loveland rally, also rejected King’s statement.

“His comments do not represent the Tea Party,” Buck spokesman Owen Loftus told The Associated Press.

Stay tuned–this could get interesting over the weekend if the rank and file Colorado tea partiers stand by King. He typically gets a warm reception from tea party crowds, as Joseph Morton noted in this story for the Omaha World-Herald:

King said that the controversy over his comments had been drummed up by liberal activists and that he was surprised both the Gardner campaign and the local tea party leadership “caved” in the face of that controversy.

“That’s not the kind of people I want guarding my back,” King said. […]

King has spoken at numerous tea party rallies, including one in Washington in April. King was introduced to the enthusiastic crowd as a “tea partier on the inside” and a congressman who is “tea party tested and tea party approved.”

He also hung one of the “Don’t Tread On Me” flags popular among tea party regulars outside his Capitol Hill office. He said at the time that the flag has become “the symbol of taking our country back.”

Obama and race also were mentioned in a speech made last month by King.

“When he had an Irish cop and a black professor, who’d he side with?” King asked. “He jumped to a conclusion without having heard the facts. And he ended up having to have a beer summit.

“The president of the United States has got to articulate a mission. And instead, he’s playing race-bait games to undermine the law enforcement in the state of Arizona and across the country.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn clearly wants this controversy to blow over, but King would rather stand his ground, even if he embarrasses fellow Republicans in the process.

UPDATE: King tweeted on Thursday, “I will do media and two events in Colorado Saturday. One at Elizabeth at 11:00, one at Loveland at 2:30 with Tancredo and others.” Can’t wait!

Meanwhile, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky said today,

“King’s statements reflect an absolute callous disregard for the truth and is an embarrassment to all Iowans,” Dvorsky said. “I’m calling on Sen. Grassley, Terry Branstad, and Iowa Republicans to join me and the Northern Colorado Tea Party in denouncing Steve King’s irresponsible and divisive comments.” […]

“It’s truly unfortunate that Matt Strawn and other Iowa Republicans haven’t mustered the courage to put him in his place,” Dvorsky said. “This is a Congressman that spends more time trying to make the news than working for his constituents. It’s time for Iowa Republicans to make a stand and let Rep. King know this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated.”

UPDATE: Isaiah McGee, the rising African American star of the Republican Party of Iowa, defended King in this post at The Iowa Republican blog. The Iowa Democratic Party asked whether Terry Branstad was indirectly defending King, noting that McGee serves as Young Professionals Chair for the Branstad campaign.

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New thread on Obama cabinet appointments and speculation (updated)

UPDATE: Barack Obama announced the key appointments in his energy and environmental team today. Meteor Blades has a good piece up on the “Green Team” of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, “energy czar” Carol Browner, Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson and head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley.

On Saturday Obama devoted his weekly address to the housing crisis (click the link to watch the video) and announced that New York City Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development Shaun Donovan will serve as Housing and Urban Development Secretary in his cabinet. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York commented,

Shaun Donovan has been one of the most effective housing commissioners in New York City’s history. At this time, with the housing crisis raging, he is exactly the kind of person we need as HUD secretary.

Sam Dillon of the New York Times discussed some possibilities for Secretary of Education and noted,

As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to announce his choice for education secretary, there is mystery not only about the person he will choose, but also about the approach to overhauling the nation’s schools that his selection will reflect.

Despite an 18-month campaign for president and many debates, there remains uncertainty about what Mr. Obama believes is the best way to improve education.

Will he side with those who want to abolish teacher tenure and otherwise curb the power of teachers’ unions? Or with those who want to rewrite the main federal law on elementary and secondary education, the No Child Left Behind Act, and who say the best strategy is to help teachers become more qualified?

UPDATE: Obama reportedly plans to nominate Arne Duncan, the head of Chicago’s public school system, as Secretary of Education. Duncan is also a longtime friend of Obama’s.

Meanwhile, nearly 45,000 people have signed this online petition at Food Democracy Now. Excerpt:

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has set a goal of 100,000 signatures for this petition.

Steph Larsen discussed some names on the short list for Secretary of Agriculture here. Sustainable agriculture advocates would love to see the job offered to Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs. Hassebrook wrote this guest opinion for the Des Moines Register a few weeks ago, saying

Nothing better illustrates the broken politics of Washington than farm and rural policy. The federal government spends billions subsidizing mega farms to drive smaller farms off the land and often penalizes the best environmental stewards with lower payments. It largely fails to invest in the future of America’s rural communities.

For example, in 2005 the Department of Agriculture spent nearly twice as much to subsidize the 260 biggest farms across 13 leading farm states than on rural development initiatives to create economic opportunity for the 3 million people living in those states’ 260 most struggling rural counties. That does not help family farms or small-town Americans. It does not serve the common good.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is among those who want to see Obama nominate a “secretary of food” with a broad vision for agriculture. He named Hassebrook as a good candidate for the job.

The Center for Rural Affairs has launched its own online petition asking Obama’s future Secretary of Agriculture, whoever that may be, to promote a new vision for rural America. It’s a long petition, advocating priorities such as:

policies to support grassroots entrepreneurship in rural America, such as the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, the Value Added Producer Grant Program, and the Farmers Market Promotion Program;

a plan to get affordable high-speed internet service to every rural business and home;

policies to support local ownership of wind turbines by farmers and ranchers, communities, and the rural workers who maintain wind turbines;

a plan to find the right approach to biofuels;

federal policies that work for family-size farms, including caps on payments;

better land and water stewardship using the Conservation Stewardship Program and other programs.

According to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Obama’s two finalists for Secretary of Transportation are former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and Steve Heminger, executive director of the San Francisco Bay area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Kirk was an early Obama supporter and the first African-American mayor of Dallas. Heminger has the strong backing of California’s large Democratic Congressional delegation. I don’t know enough about either man’s views on transportation to have an opinion about who would be better for this job.

New names continue to emerge in the speculation surrounding Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Among the names previously floated, environmentalists have advocated for Raul Grijalva and against Mike Thompson. Now the Denver Post says Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado is a finalist for the job. Traditionally, someone from the west is named to head the Interior Department. Salazar is up for re-election in 2010, and Swing State Project already has a thread up to discuss possible Democratic candidates to replace him if he leaves the Senate for a cabinet position.

UPDATE: CBS news in Denver says Salazar has accepted Obama’s offer to become Secretary of the Interior. Not a great choice, and it leaves Democrats an open Senate seat to defend in Colorado in 2010.

Post any relevant thoughts or opinions in the comments.

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