Representative Steve King, R-Iowa, who has served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from a conservative district in northwest Iowa, was defeated Tuesday in the Republican primary by state senator Randy Feenstra. In a 5-way race, Feenstra garnered almost 46% of the vote compared to King’s 36%.
King, a conservative on issues such as abortion, marriage and illegal immigration, was also heavily criticized on both sides of the political aisle for his extreme, sometimes bizarre comments to the press and on social media.
For example, in explaining his views on why there should be no exceptions for rape or incest as part of a law banning abortion, King said this last year:
“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.”
Most pro-life politicians would have simply explained that all innocent life should be protected, and you ought to punish the rapist, not the baby. For his strange response, King had to publicly defend himself against charges that he supported rape.
King’s dalliances with white supremacy over the years, however, are what finally moved Republican House leadership to strip him of his valuable committee assignments last year and make him persona non grata within the party. Things came to a head when, in a 2019 interview with The New York Times concerning immigration issues, he stated, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Although King protested that he was misunderstood and that he rejects the ideology of white nationalism and white supremacy out of hand, the damage was done. Mainstream Republicans and organizations such as the National Right to Life threw their support to Feenstra in the primary, who raised almost three times as much cash as King in the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote.
As if to underscore the reason for King’s ouster, National Republican Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted: “Congratulations @RandyFeenstra on winning the GOP primary in #IA04! Steve King’s white supremacist rhetoric is totally inconsistent with the Republican Party, and I’m glad Iowa Republicans rejected him at the ballot box.”
Democrats were overjoyed at King’s departure and eager to take credit for what Iowa GOP voters had done, including the noted abortion supporter, actress Alyssa Milano, who tweeted: “Steve King lost the Iowa GOP primary. That’s what we do. We vote racists out of office.” That prompted a reply tweet poking fun at her from the Republican Campaign Committee: “Welcome to the Iowa Republican Party?”
Feenstra, a conservative, has been in the Iowa State Senate since 2009. He faces Democrat J.D. Scholten in November.