Campaigns

Steve King primary challenger slams his ‘caustic nature’

Iowa Republican won re-election by just 3 points in solid GOP district

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is facing a GOP primary this cycle after a narrow re-election in 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King will face a Republican primary challenger next year, with state Sen. Randy Feenstra announcing Wednesday that he is running in the 4th District.

Feenstra, the assistant majority leader in the state Senate, did not mention the nine-term incumbent by name in his statement announcing he was forming a congressional campaign committee, but slammed King’s lack of influence.

“Today, Iowa’s 4th District doesn’t have a voice in Washington, because our current representative’s caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table,” Feenstra said in a news release. “We don’t need any more sideshows or distractions, we need to start winning for Iowa’s families.”

King drew renewed criticism late last year over racist remarks and posts on social media linked to white nationalists. The National Republican Congressional Committee declined to support him even as his race tightened.

Flashback: Steve King explodes when pressed about white supremacist comments

King ended up narrowly winning re-election by 3 points, defeating Democratic lawyer JD Scholten in the solidly Republican district in northwest Iowa. President Donald Trump carried the seat by 27 points in 2016.

The congressman’s campaign manager, son Jeff King, said in a statement Wednesday that in late December, Feenstra told the younger King, “I love your dad and I would never run against him.”

“Today, misguided political opportunism, fueled by establishment puppeteers, has revealed that Mr. Feenstra is easily swayed by the lies of the Left,” read a King campaign statement. The campaign also noted that Trump has referred to King as “the world’s most conservative human being.”

The congressman also appears to be trying to counter criticism that he was neglecting his district, announcing Monday that he would hold town hall meetings in all of its 39 counties.  

Asked if Scholten was planning to once again challenge King, the Democrat’s former campaign manager, Irene Lin, said in an email that Scholten was “considering all his options.”

Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said the state party would not take sides in the contest.

“As we are in all legitimate primary contests, the Republican Party of Iowa will remain neutral in this race,” Kaufmann said in a statement. “The good people of the fourth district will have the ultimate say.”

Correction 6:32 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated the number of terms Rep. Steve King has been elected to Congress. He is currently in his ninth term. 

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