Iowa voters oust Rep. King, shunned for insensitive remarks

Full Screen
1 / 12

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2019, file photo, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks during a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa. King is on the outs with a significant bloc of his long-reliable conservative base, but not for almost two decades of incendiary utterances about abortion, immigrants and Islam. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Republicans in northwest Iowa ousted Rep. Steve King in Tuesday’s primary, deciding they’ve had enough of the conservative lightning rod known for making incendiary comments about immigrants and white supremacy throughout his nearly two decades in Congress.

The nine-term congressman, shunned by his party leadership in Washington and many of his longtime supporters at home, lost to well-funded state Sen. Randy Feenstra in a five-way GOP primary. The challengers argued that King’s loss of clout, even more than his continuous string of provocative and racially-charged statements, was reason enough for turning on him.

“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 during a Facebook Live appearance with his family behind him.

Iowa Democrats also chose a challenger for Republican freshman Sen. Joni Ernst in a race earlier thought to heavily favor Ernst until her approval shrank over the past year. Des Moines businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who raised the most money and garnered the widest cross-section of the Iowa Democratic coalition of elected officials and labor unions, won the nomination over three others.

But the focus was on the 4th District primary featuring King, the lone Republican in Iowa’s U.S. House delegation.

King was stripped of his committee assignments in 2019 for comments appearing to question the criticism of white nationalism in an era of increased sensitivity among Republicans nationally about the alt-right and white supremacists. He wondered aloud in a New York Times story about when the term “white supremacist” became offensive. King said the remarks were taken out of context.

The 71-year-old had piled up provocative statements throughout the years, comparing immigrants to livestock and appeared to make light of rape and incest in defending his anti-abortion views.

Critics in both parties charged that King was no longer an effective representative for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District on agriculture and other local issues.