Congressman Steve King is feeling the pressure of a primary campaign unlike anything he has experienced since the first time he was narrowly elected to the Republican ticket.
King’s first run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 was unusual in that he did not win outright on Election Day. Instead, a special convention was held in Western Iowa where party faithful were asked to choose between the district’s four candidates, none of whom crossed the 35% support threshold needed to win on Election Day.
Since then, the 4th District congressman has sailed through every primary contest, until now. King is on the ballot this year with four other Republicans. Based on fundraising, name recognition, endorsements and his time in the Iowa Legislature, state Sen. Randy Feenstra is expected to come within striking distance of King on Election Day tomorrow, and possibly pull off an upset.
King used the final minutes of a recent televised debate to spin a conspiracy theory about Feenstra’s congressional campaign and the origins of a Jan. 10, 2019, New York Times article that led to the loss of his House committee assignments.
This is King’s theory, in its entirety:
“It was a strategized attack on me. It was orchestrated. I knew it was coming. I got a heads-up warning the day before Thanksgiving in 2018 that they were going to try again. They told me who the messenger was likely to be. I went and met with that messenger on Jan. 8 , and the messenger said, ‘I’d never do that to you, Steve.’
“And so, Jan. 9, I knew I was sending a message up to the people that were doing the planning against me. They knew I knew on Jan. 8. The next morning, Randy Feenstra announces his campaign against me. He had canceled out 10 years of his Twitter account — whatever kind of ‘Never Trumper’ stuff might have been in there we’ll never know what that might be — but he canceled that all out, started fresh.
“The first thing in a 2009 Twitter account is announcing he was running for Congress; no website, no rollout plan, nothing. Somebody called him and told him, ‘You got to run now because King’s on to us.’ The next day, the New York Times story came out, and that was a flood that could not be stopped by anything I said.”
Feenstra shot back, reminding King they met Dec. 28, 2018, so Feenstra could tell him he was running for the 4th District seat.
“I told him before he even did the [New York Times] article that I was running against him, and that was Dec. 28,” Feenstra said.
Ever since King was removed from House committees in 2019 after questioning in the Times article why “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” are offensive terms, he has pushed the idea that the Republican establishment — of which he considers Feenstra a part of — wants him out of office.
“There’s powers that be — some of them are money powers, not all of them — that want Steve King out of the way because they don’t like to have to do battle on life and on marriage and on budgets and on guns and — name of the whole list of things that I’m in front of — and on the border,” King said during the WHO-TV debate. “They don’t like that. The ‘Never Trumpers’ are the people that ginned this all up.”
In an interview with the Sioux City Journal, King repeated his theory about the launch of Feenstra’s campaign and the timing of the New York Times article, describing the events as a “political coup attempt.”
“It was orchestrated, and I knew it was orchestrated as far back as the day before Thanksgiving in 2018,” King said.
When asked about his lackluster fundraising this cycle — King has raised only $72,541 in 2020 compared to Feenstra’s $204,421 — the congressman said “there’s a network out there that’s chased major donors down” and shamed them for contributing to his campaign, which in turn has “suppressed the donations.”
Though King has aligned himself with President Donald Trump and describes himself as the president’s most ardent supporter compared to the district’s four other Republican candidates, Trump did not endorse King — or any other candidate — in the 4th District primary. He recently endorsed Ashley Hinson in the 1st District and David Young in the 3rd, but no one in the 4th.
Republican primary voters will decide King’s fate tomorrow in an election where 56,230 have already cast an absentee ballot, a record in itself already.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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