In a closely-watched GOP primary, Iowa Rep. Steve King, a nine-term congress from western Iowa, lost his primary race Tuesday night, which comes after King had spent the last 18 months serving in Congress with no committee assignments.
The former member of the House Agriculture Committee had been stripped of his committees by Republican leaders in January 2019 following comments in a New York Times article in which he questioned how terms such as white nationalism and white supremacy became offensive. His removal from the Agriculture Committee became noted among Iowa agricultural groups and leaders and was seen as leaving King as ineffective at a time when farmers were in the midst of challenging financial times.
King often picked battles, even on the Agriculture Committee, such as legislation he repeatedly pushed that would have prevented states from setting standards for agricultural production. On this issue, King often criticized California standards on cages for egg production, saying California's state standard was forcing producers in other states to change their practices. King maintained laws such as those in California violated the Interstate Commerce Clause. Still, he lost repeated attempts to get similar legislation into the farm bill.
King lost to state Sen. Randy Feenstra who had garnered most of the support among state Republican leaders. Feenstra carried 45.7% of the vote, or 36,797 votes, to King's 28,977 votes or 36%. Three other candidates in the race each carried under 8% of the vote.
In recent weeks, King had made it seem that GOP leaders were prepared to return him to his committee assignments, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., disputed those claims. King had announced legislation on Monday to try to help hog farmers receive indemnities for having to euthanize their hogs.
King commented on Facebook after his loss, defending his record and statements saying none of his challenges had taken issue with "a single statement that I have made." King said his loss was "an effort to push out the strongest voice for full-spectrum constitutional, Christian conservatism" in Congress.
Still, even national GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted Tuesday night, "Steve King's white supremacist rhetoric is totally inconsistent with the Republican Party, and I'm glad Iowa Republicans rejected him at the ballot box."
Feenstra will face off against Democrat J.D. Scholten, who lost a close race to King in 2018. Scholten gained a lot of notoriety among Democrats in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses as he campaigned with national Democrats. Still, Scholten faces a difficult task against Feenstra if only because the Fourth Congressional District in Iowa is the most heavily GOP-voter registered district in the state.
The Iowa race was watched nationally and reported on by both the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which sent out alerts late Tuesday announcing King had lost the primary.
Des Moines Register: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/…
New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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