Concerned about her personal safety, her health insurance, and ability to care for her ailing mother, Kim Weaver is ending her campaign against Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district and moving to Des Moines, she announced on Facebook Saturday.
Excerpts from Weaver’s June 3 Facebook post:
One consideration has been raised again by recent events at my home. Beginning during my 2016 campaign, I have received very alarming acts of intimidation, including death threats. While some may say enduring threats are just a part of running for office, my personal safety has increasingly become a concern.
Above this, my personal health is an issue. In order to sufficiently devote myself to the campaign, I would have to quit my job and shift to campaigning full-time. With recent legislation on health insurance, I must admit that the possibility of seeking a new job after the election exposes too much of a risk for me in not being able to secure health insurance.
Most importantly, my mother lives in Des Moines and has been experiencing ongoing health issues. I feel that it’s necessary to be more available to support her. Considering this, along with the time and energy it takes to succeed as a candidate, I realize that I can’t fully commit to both.
With all this in mind, I have made the difficult decision to end my campaign, and to move out of the district and back to Des Moines where I grew up.
Although I’m stepping down as a candidate, I still passionately support the defeat of Steve King. I will remain a part of the effort for a future candidate in this district, as well as help to elect a Democratic Governor and other Democrats across Iowa.
In this effort, the funds we raised will be distributed within the district to continue to oppose Steve King.
Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Weaver said she had received more hostile communication since Jason Noble reported in April on her past work as a professional psychic. Weaver also asserted that Republicans in the state legislature had cut the budget for the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman
as “punishment” for her political candidacy.
The office received a $164,000 cut this year — a 12 percent reduction from the previous year.
“I’m feeling guilty that we lost this funding because I’m running for office,” Weaver said, adding that she was prepared to take a “voluntary layoff” if the cut requires a staff reduction.
Weaver said she was told by her supervisor of the connection between her candidacy and the budget cut, and that the supervisor, in turn, was told by a state legislator.
Iowa House and Senate Republicans approved about $1 million less for the Department on Aging for fiscal year 2018 than Governor Terry Branstad had requested. Within that department, the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman (where Weaver works) received about $110,000 less for the coming year than Branstad had requested.
It’s plausible that Republican lawmakers were petty enough to cut funding because Weaver said mean things about King. On the other hand, the budget they approved during this year’s legislative session slashed many important services for vulnerable Iowans, so cutting funding for this office seems right up their alley. The corporations that own long-term care facilities have long lobbied for less oversight of their activities. Proving the connection between Weaver’s candidacy and the budget cut would be difficult, especially since legislative communications are exempted from Iowa’s open records law.
I wish Weaver well in her move and hope she will not lose her job with the state. Stepping up to be more available to her mother is admirable.
Weaver’s decision leaves no Democrats running in IA-04. Iowa State University Professor Dirk Deam had been exploring a Congressional campaign. However, a representative for Deam told me in late April that he “has decided to suspend his efforts indefinitely,” because “new and unexpected family obligations” won’t permit him to spend “the time to run the kind of campaign that will be necessary to win the district.” I am seeking comment from Sioux City business owner Ryan Meyers, who filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission earlier this year but ended his campaign after Weaver raised more money during the second half of March than she had during the entire 2016 cycle.
Although King is widely despised in Democratic circles, recruiting a candidate to take him on may not be easy. IA-04 is the most Republican of Iowa’s four Congressional districts, by far. Its 39 counties contain 119,560 active registered Democrats, 191,971 Republicans, and 172,552 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Last November, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by a 60.9 percent to 33.5 percent margin in the district, while King received 61.2 percent of the vote against Weaver.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread, especially if you are aware of other potential Democratic challengers to King.
UPDATE: King tweeted on June 4,
I wanted #KimWeaver IN the race-not out. Democrats drove her out of the race-not R's. Death threats likely didn't happen but a fabrication.
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) June 4, 2017
I believe King wanted to run against Weaver again, but on what basis could he possibly know whether she has received threats?
Deam told Gavin Aronsen of the Iowa Informer, “My reasons for suspending my campaign had to do with an unexpected and urgent medical problem in my family that I am now fairly involved dealing with. For that reason, I do not foresee re-entering the race.”
Another possible contender, former Sioux City baseball standout J.D. Scholten, who has worked as a paralegal first in the Minneapolis-St. Paul and then Seattle area for the past decade, told the Informer he plans to move back to Sioux City soon and is still exploring a bid but that his priority is his family. “Right now my focus is on helping my parents in Sioux City as they start their retirement and helping my mother with the family farm,” he said.
JUNE 6 UPDATE: Noble reported,
In an interview with the Register, [Long-Term Care Ombudsman Deanna] Clingan-Fischer said she never told Weaver that the budget cut was tied to her candidacy, and she declined to read into lawmakers’ actions.
Clingan-Fischer said she was told the office’s funding was cut in response to lower-than-expected state revenues and because of a pending application to the federal government that may yield additional federal funding for its operations.
“I cannot say what motive or intent legislators had behind the scenes,” Clingan-Fischer said. “What I do know is that our budget suffered cuts this last session just like a lot of other department and office budgets suffered cuts.”
She added, however, that she fielded multiple questions from lawmakers during the legislative session about how Weaver was balancing her obligations as a state employee with the demands of a congressional campaign.
The top Republicans on the Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee, State Representative Dave Heaton and State Senator Mark Costello, denied Weaver’s campaign had anything to do with budget decisions. A spokesperson for Governor Kim Reynolds said, “At no time was Ms. Weaver the subject of, nor mentioned in, budget discussions.” Weaver stood by her account of what Clingan-Fischer told her.
As I mentioned in the original post, Republicans reduced spending on a wide range of human services during the 2017 legislative session. To name just a few programs cut significantly for next year: Adoption Subsidy, Child Support Recoveries, Child and Family Services, and the Family Investment Program (cash assistance for needy families). Republicans reduced spending on victim assistance even more deeply, for no apparent reason. The whole Department of Aging budget was cut, not only the Office of Long-Care Ombudsman. So I can believe that Weaver’s political activity was unrelated to funding decisions for the office where she works.
On the other hand, speaking to me off the record in April, Republican as well as Democratic sources indicated that State Senator Joe Bolkcom’s work for the Iowa Flood Center might have influenced the surprise effort by GOP lawmakers to zero out funding for that research center at the University of Iowa. GOP lawmakers backpedaled but only restored 80 percent of the flood center’s funding for the next fiscal year. I’m sure no one would go on the record admitting that GOP appropriators tried to screw over one of the most vocal critics of their budget policies. That doesn’t mean Bolkcom’s work wasn’t a factor–only that it would be difficult to prove such an allegation.
Meanwhile, Weaver told Noble on June 5 “she was informed of violent threats made against her but has not seen direct evidence of them.”