After 17 years as a U.S. congressman, Republican Steve King was ousted today as the representative of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. King will not get the chance to defend his seat this fall because he was defeated by state Sen. Randy Feenstra, a first-time congressional candidate.
The Associated Press called the race for Feenstra at 11 p.m. Tuesday. Polls closed across Iowa at 9 p.m.
Unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State show Feenstra earned the support of 45.6% of Republican primary voters. King received 36% of the vote. Jeremy Taylor, a former Woodbury County supervisor, earned 7.8% support compared to Bret Richard’s 7.4% and Steven Reeder’s 3%.
“I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support over the past 17 months that made tonight possible and I thank Congressman King for his decades of public service,” Feenstra said in a statement. “As we turn to the General Election, I will remain focused on my plans to deliver results for the families, farmers and communities of Iowa. But first, we must make sure this seat doesn’t land in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies in Congress. Tomorrow, we get back to work.”
Nine terms into his tenure in the House of Representatives, this cycle King faced his most competitive primary challenge to date. Couple that with the loss of his committee assignments in January 2019 due to racist comments he made in the New York Times, and the ultra-conservative King was in real political danger.
Late Tuesday night, King posted a video message to Facebook conceding the race.
“I pointed out [to Feenstra] that there’s some powerful elements in the swamp that he’s going to have an awfully hard time pushing back against them,” King said. “He assured me that that’s what he would do, and I’m thinking of those super PACs that came in this race and how powerful they are. I don’t know if he or anybody has any idea how powerful they actually are.
“This comes from an effort to push out the strongest voice for full spectrum, constitutional Christian conservatism that exists in the United States Congress,” he said.
Feenstra received financial contributions from former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and is supported by National Right to Life, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican Main Street Partnership. He also was up on TV and blanketed mailboxes in the district with flyers.
Polling in this race largely was commissioned by Feenstra, so it was difficult to tell coming into Election Day where the race stood. Given that three other candidates, in addition to Feenstra and King, were vying for the Republican nomination, observers of the race thought King’s best chance at victory was to have those who opposed him splinter their votes between Feenstra, Taylor, Reeder and Richards, leaving room for King to cross the 35% support threshold needed to win the contest outright. That did not happen, however. Neither Taylor, Reeder or Richards earned support in the double digits.
Feenstra will meet Democrat J.D. Scholten in the general election. In 2018, Scholten lost to King by three percentage points.
Under a new law passed by the Iowa Legislature last session, King is unable to run as an independent in the general election because he already would have needed to submit nomination paperwork as an independent candidate.
By Elizabeth Meyer
Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.
6/3/20: This article was updated to include unofficial voting results from the Iowa Secretary of State.