Story updated at 5:00 AM
MASON CITY — Republican voters in Iowa’s fourth congressional district have delivered a historic verdict, deciding against re-election for a long-time lawmaker with a penchant for controversial comments. Challenger Randy Feenstra defeated Congressman Steve King’s bid for a 10th term by nearly 10 points.
“I just want to thank all the voters of the fourth district who placed their trust in me,” Feenstra said in a video message posted on Facebook.
Feenstra raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for his race, dwarfing King’s campaign account. Well-known Republicans like former Governor Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats publicly endorsed Feenstra.
“I said from day one that Iowans deserve a proven, effective conservative leader that will deliver results and I’ve done that in the Iowa Senate being in the Iowa legislature that last 12 years,” Feenstra said, “and I promise you I will deliver results in congress.”
King conceded the race, but pointed to the outside spending from so-called “super PACs” that supported Feenstra.
“There’s some powerful elements in the swamp that he’s going to have an awfully hard time pushing back against them,” King said in a video posted online. “He assured me that’s what he would do. I don’t know that he or anybody has any idea of how powerful they actually are.”
Early last year, The New York Times published comments from King about white supremacy, comments King insists were not punctuated and interpreted correctly, and House GOP leadership revoked King’s committee assignments. King said last night that he was targeted for defeat by fellow Republicans because of his voice, not his votes.
“This comes from an effort to push out the strongest voice for full-spectrum constitutional Christian conservatism that existed in the United States Congress,” King said. “And what I regret is these tactics may get legs and be used against the next most effective, then the next, then the next.”
Democrat J.D. Scholten of Sioux City came within 3.4 percentage points of knocking King out of congress in 2018. That prompted concern among Republicans who feared King’s presence on the 2020 ballot would be a drag on other GOP candidates. Scholten said his second campaign for congress will be much like his first.
“We ran on what we’re for and not just who we’re against and what we’re against,” Scholten said.
Yet Scholten is signalling he will use some of King’s criticism of Feenstra, around the issue of campaign finance and the outside groups that supported Feenstra’s bid to defeat King.
“A lot of PACs, a lot of corporations and a lot of hedge fund managers and like the ‘who’s who’ of what they refer to as ‘the swamp,’” Scholten told Radio Iowa last night. “We don’t take corporate PAC money, so there’s a huge difference.”
Feenstra finished about 7800 votes ahead of King, capturing 45.7% of the votes cast in the 4th district primary. King received the support of 36% of voters in the district. There were three other candidates in the race.
A recent election law change prevents King from running as an independent candidate or the nominee of another party this November. King’s ninth term in the House runs through the end of the year and King said in his video message that he’ll focus on ideas to revive the economy and defeat “anarchists in the streets.”