Incumbent Steve King has lost his seat in Congress as Randy Feenstra wins Iowa’s Republican Primary. But did King really lose because of his controversial remarks? Jasmine Razeghi takes a closer look.
On June 3rd, the Des Moines Register revealed that Senator Randy Feenstra defeated 9 term incumbent Steve King, 45.7% to 36% respectively, during the Republican primaries for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
Iowa’s 4th Congressional District has held a Republican seat since 1995. Randy Feenstra, a former businessman and former Sioux County Treasurer from Hull, Iowa, is not unique in his political views. Instead, he is someone the Republican Party can stand behind without the fear of backlash.
Massive Support Rolls In for Randy Feenstra
Randy Feenstra, an Iowa State Senate member since 2009, had a strong backing when running against King. He received endorsements from the Republican Jewish Coalition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who rarely endorses against incumbents, and the National Right to Life, the only one endorsed in Iowa’s 4th district. He also received an A rating from the NRA while King received an A-. Steve King, in contrast, lost his previous endorsements to Feenstra. Defending Main Street, a conservative Super PAC, contributed $100,000 to Randy Feenstra’s campaign according to Sioux City Journal. This was the first time the Super PAC contributed to a Republican incumbent’s challenger.
Bob Vander Plaats, a former King supporter, and political activist endorsed Feenstra with confidence that he would not let the congressional seat to flip come to the November elections. During his last re-election effort, Steve King won against Democrat J.D. Scholten by only about 10,000 votes. J.D. Scholten recently ran unchallenged for the district’s Democratic primary and will face Feenstra in November.
In response to Feenstra’s win, Co-Chair of The Republican Party of Iowa Cody Hoefert stated, “I have no doubt Iowans in the fourth district will unite behind Feenstra and his record of strong conservative leadership, and I look forward to working with them to keep the fourth district ruby red in November,” while also claiming that Democratic opponent J.D. Scholten has a “socialist agenda”. Scholten has major endorsements including Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Blue America.
Are King’s Remarks the Real Reason He Lost?
After Steve King questioned the offensiveness of white nationalism and white supremacy in a 2019 New York Times article, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, slammed King when he stated, “Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”
The House unexpectedly passed a 424-1 resolution that condemned King’s comments. President Trump who is keen to express support through Twitter during elections did not endorse anyone for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. However, on June 3rd, the President tweeted, “Congratulations to Randy Feenstra on your big win in the Iowa Republican Primary. You will be a great Congressman!” which signaled that King’s loss was not a loss to Trump.
Though there was a condemnation of Steve King’s remarks, King was never held accountable other than being removed from his committee assignments. But these controversial and racist remarks are not new for King. Steve King’s controversial comments date back to 2006 during a Las Vegas Rally, when he stated that undocumented immigrants have “killed many more Americans since September 11, 2001, than were killed in the Al-Qaeda attacks that day” and went on to warn that “we have a slow-motion holocaust on our hands.”
Though his recent defense of the term white supremacy may seem to be the reason why he lost, it took 14 years for King to be voted out of office. Are his comments truly what took him out of Congress?
Will the Congressional District Flip?
According to the U.S. Census, Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is composed of only 25.1% of individuals who have a bachelor’s degree or higher and roughly 92% of individuals are white. “Higher educational attainment is increasingly associated with Democratic Party affiliation and leaning,” according to Pew Research Center. Based on the same research, white voters are more likely to identify as Republican or Republican-leaning, rather than Democrat.
Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten may have all odds against him considering the voter composition in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, but that is not stopping him from running for a seat in Congress for a second time. During the 2018 election, Scholten traveled to all 39 counties in Iowa’s 4th District. He distinguished himself from the average Congressman by messaging to Iowan’s that he is young, and he is not a millionaire. Scholten was inspired by his grandmother and a Women’s March he attended to run for Congress. After losing by only 3 points to Steve King in the last election, he is going to face off with Randy Feenstra in November. But will the race be as close as the last election?
What Else, If Anything, Should We Consider?
Since King was voted out of office, Feenstra might be the candidate to unite the red district after King was slammed time after time for his controversial remarks. But if Iowa’s 4th Congressional District voted out King in order to signal a shift in their beliefs, then Scholten could make a comeback during this year’s election. A district as “ruby red” as this one seems nearly impossible to flip, but there is still potential.
In the 2018 election, House Democrats flipped 41 GOP seats, losing only 2 to the Republicans. There lies potential in J.D. Scholten’s campaign to be a part of this “blue wave”.
Republican nominee Randy Feenstra now faces Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten on November 3rd. With Feenstra’s win, Republican voters hope to have saved the seat from flipping by changing the man in the seat. However, a lot can change from now to November.