Rep. Steve King, who was shunned by GOP leaders for his racist remarks, loses in the Iowa primary.
The nine-term congressman was stripped of his committee assignments in January 2019 after questioning why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” should be considered offensive.
He lost in a crowded Republican primary in the state’s rural northwest district. This story will update.
The long and controversial congressional career of Rep. Steve King hung by a thread late Tuesday, as he trailed in early returns in his bid for renomination after racially offensive remarks forced national Republicans to distance themselves from the conservative Iowa firebrand.
King, who is seeking a 10th House term, was behind state Sen. Randy Feenstra in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary, with most precincts in Feenstra’s home county still yet to report results.
Iowa’s elections were among dozens of congressional primaries taking place amid a backdrop of a global pandemic, civil unrest and a national reckoning over racism and police violence in eight states and the District of Columbia.
Several of the elections, which in some states include the presidential race, had been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was projected to win primaries in New Mexico, Montana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, according to Edison Media Research, as he amasses delegates to secure the nomination.
The key issues in King’s race have been years in the making.
He lost his House committee assignments in January 2019 after questioning in a New York Times interview why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” should be considered offensive.
It was perhaps the most egregious in a long record of pointed comments demeaning minorities, immigrants and multiculturalism, punctuated by dealings with far-right European activists.
Although Feenstra hesitated to attack King directly for his views, he was not shy about questioning his relevance in Washington — particularly after losing his seat on the House Agriculture Committee, an important sinecure for the rural western Iowa district.
“The 4th District needs a seat at the table, an effective conservative voice,” Feenstra said in a May 26 debate held by WHO-TV.
“To me, this election is about real results, not campaign rhetoric. . . . Our district, our president deserves an effective conservative leader in Congress.”
The district is historically conservative, but the controversies swirling around King have taken a toll on his popularity. In 2016, he won by 22 percentage points over his Democratic opponent.
In 2018, he beat first-time candidate J.D. Scholten by barely three points, and now Scholten is running again with a campaign war chest five times as large as that of any GOP candidate — and many prominent Republicans fear that King may not survive.
Nathan L. Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Politics and a longtime political handicapper, said a King win would leave the seat clearly vulnerable to Democrats.
Should King lose, he said, Republicans would be much more likely to hold on — and improve their long-shot chances at winning the House majority.
That, in part, explained the influx of support for Feenstra, who has raised about $926,000 to King’s $331,000 — a paltry sum for a nine-term incumbent in a competitive race.
Meanwhile, Defending Main Street, a GOP super PAC affiliated with the moderate Main Street Partnership, spent $100,000 to oust King, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $200,000 more behind Feenstra