Congressman Steve King of Iowa, known for his long history of horrific racist, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-immigrant comments, has been defeated in the Republican primary.
King, who has served nine terms in the U.S. House, lost Tuesday’s primary in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District to Randy Feenstra, a state senator. Feenstra has nearly 46 percent of the vote with 96 percent of precincts in, The New York Times reports, and King was trailing with 36 percent. The other three challengers were in single digits.
Feenstra will face J.D. Scholten in November. Scholten, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, nearly beat King in the 2018 general election for the seat from the western Iowa district.
King’s defeat comes at a time of national outcry over police brutality and systemic racism. He is certainly known for racist comments as well as homophobic and transphobic ones. His “greatest hits” include saying undocumented immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they’re hauling huge drug shipments; that same-sex couples are not a “natural family”; that transgender military members would be unable to defend Western civilization; and that only white people are responsible for creating that civilization.
He has said Americans cannot “restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” and in a 2019 interview with the Times, he wondered aloud, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” The latter remark got him stripped of his committee assignments, even though he tried to backtrack and do damage control.
King had become toxic even to many Republicans. “King’s Republican opponents have chosen not to focus on King’s rhetoric; instead, they’ve endeavored to portray the congressman, who has been removed from three committee positions, as just another ineffective, complacent career politician,” Elaine King wrote in The Atlantic leading up to Tuesday’s vote. “Which is to say that the message Republicans are sending to King is not a condemnation of his racist comments, but rather a broader denunciation for an even graver political sin: putting a safe seat in danger.”
Ideologically, Feenstra does not appear to be a great improvement over King, although his party is probably hoping his rhetoric will be more subtle. His campaign website describes him as a “pro-Trump effective conservative” and touts his high ratings from the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee. It mentions his commitment to “Christian conservative values” and efforts to outlaw abortion and defund Planned Parenthood.
It also notes his opposition to sanctuary cities and says he will support the construction of a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico “while opposing Nancy Pelosi’s and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s reckless open borders policies that are endangering Iowa communities.”
His site does not mention LGBTQ+ issues specifically, but he was a strong proponent of amending Iowa’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. He introduced such an amendment in 2011 and continued to support the measure through the next two legislative sessions, according to the Bleeding Heartland blog.
With Feenstra’s victory, Iowa Republicans are already demonizing Scholten. “Feenstra is a strong, conservative leader with a history of getting things done for his district,” said a statement released by Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, Sioux City station KTIV reports. “On the other hand, his Democratic opponent J.D. Scholten supports a socialist agenda that includes the radical $93 trillion Green New Deal and government-run health care, and he has raked in twice as much in contributions from California liberals than from folks here in Iowa. It’s clear he doesn’t have Iowans’ best interests at heart.”