DES MOINES – Republican voters ousted U.S. Rep. Steve King on Tuesday, delivering an end the two decades of controversy he brought to his heavily conservative district.
The Associated Press has called the 4th Congressional District primary race for state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who had the backing of many state elected officials and national Republican groups.
Feenstra vastly out-raised King and spent heavily on television advertising targeting King as ineffective since he was stripped of his committee seats by Republican leaders in January 2019.
"I said from day one that Iowans deserve a proven, effective conservative leader that will deliver results and I have done that in the Iowa Senate being in the Iowa Legislature for the last 12 years. And I promise you I will deliver results in Congress," Feenstra said in a Facebook Live video on Tuesday night.
King, a nine-term representative, was first elected in 2002.
Feenstra also defeated Bret Richards, an Army veteran, educator and former businessman from Irwin; Jeremy Taylor, a former Woodbury County supervisor and state lawmaker from Sioux City; and Steve Reeder, an Arnolds Park businessman.
King was stripped of his committees last year following remarks he made to the New York Times about white nationalism. All four challengers used King's removal from those committees as evidence that they would be more effective in Congress while still sharing King's conservative values.
King has denied supporting white nationalism and has said those comments were taken out of context for political reasons. He's described the backlash as an orchestrated campaign against him.
But King has long faced criticism for his incendiary comments. He has long been a strident critic of legal abortion and illegal immigration, and has made remarks that Republicans have decried before.
Feenstra had amassed significant state elected officials and national Republican-aligned groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Right to Life and the Republican Jewish Coalition. Meanwhile, prominent Iowa Republicans like Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst opted to stay out of the race rather than supporting King as they had in past elections.
The 4th District, in conservative northwest Iowa, has long favored Republicans. King won in 2016 with 61% of the vote — a 22 percentage-point margin over his Democratic challenger. That same year, President Donald Trump won the district, besting Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 30 percentage points.
But this year, King knew the race would be tight.
"I have some concerns. There is no question the race is tightening up," King told the Sioux City Journal last month.
In 2018, King defeated Democrat J.D. Scholten by just 3.4%, his smallest margin of victory in a general election. Some of King's opponents have said they're concerned Republicans could lose the seat if he is the nominee.
Scholten is running again this year and was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, which he won Tuesday. He will face Feenstra in November.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.