Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, lost his seat in Congress after a tough primary election in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, ending a nearly 20-year career defined by his racism.
State Sen. Randy Feenstra, who had support from much of Iowa's Republican establishment, defeated King in a close race Tuesday night.
Feenstra's campaign against King was not so much about King's racist comments or world-view as it was about his very limited effectiveness in Washington, now that the Republican Party had soured on him.
King was for years a dominant force in Iowa politics, drawing Republican presidential candidates to come to pay their respects and woo his support. That only began to slip in the last two years, even as his record of racism goes back much longer.
King has been one of the staunchest voices in US politics against immigrants for almost a decade. In an infamous 2013 interview, he said that for every undocumented person in the United States “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
A year later, Donald Trump, then considering a run for president, said in a joint interview with King that King is a “special guy, a smart person, with really the right views on almost everything.” Soon after Trump was inaugurated as president, in March 2017, King said the United States “can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
King has often been quoted in right-wing publications around the world about his fear of the world and America losing its white majority status. He has spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about billionaire George Soros and told Breitbart in a June 2018 interview that Somali Muslims shouldn’t work in meatpacking plants because he “[doesn’t] want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops.”
King narrowly kept his House seat in 2018 by defeating Democrat J.D. Scholten, after some of King’s former statements resurfaced in the wake of the Tree of Life Temple shooting in October 2018. Scholten is running for the seat again this year.
When King made it back to Congress in 2019, Republican minority leaders removed him from all of his committee assignments, including his seat on the Judiciary Committee after more racist remarks surfaced from an interview with the New York Times where King asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
Democrats quickly proposed censuring King before ultimately settling on a formal reprimand, which ultimately only mentioned King by name once in its opening line and renounced white supremacy and white nationalism. King voted in favor of the reprimand himself.
After King was stripped of his committee assignments, four Iowa Republicans filed to challenge him in the primary. The state’s Republican Party rallied around Feenstra, who had been closest in the polls to King and who raised and spent significantly more money during the primary. King has railed against his primary opponents as part of a "Never Trump" establishment. Trump did not endorse in the primary.
Feenstra's final campaign ad did not address King’s racist or anti-Semitic statements. Rather, it focused on King’s lack of committee assignments. “President Trump needs Republicans in Congress who are effective,” Feenstra said in the ad.