Steve King Facing Serious Republican Challenge In Iowa

Steve King, who has recently come under attack for a long history of racist remarks, is facing a strong challenge for the GOP nomination in 2020.

Iowa Congressman Steve King, who became the focus of national controversy earlier this year when the media and fellow Republicans began focusing on racist remarks that he had made in the past is facing a serious primary challenge back home:

A primary election challenger to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) raised more than four times as much in campaign donations during the first quarter of the year, a threatening sign for an incumbent who often stokes controversy with white supremacist and racist rhetoric.

King raised $61,666 in the first three months of 2019, according to campaign disclosure reports. The lawmaker spent more than $69,500 in the same period and had just over $18,000 in cash on hand.

A Republican challenger, state Rep. Randy Feenstra, said earlier this month he had raised more than $261,000 in his bid to unseat King in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

Feenstra announced his campaign in January, lambasting King for his “caustic nature” that had left Iowans “without a seat at the table.”

“We don’t need any more sideshows or distractions,” Feenstra said at the time. “We need to start winning for Iowa’s families.”

Earlier this month, Feenstra praised the “incredible support” of voters, saying he received donations from more than 500 people, most in Iowa.
“Iowa conservatives desperately need a seat at the table in Congress and I am humbled that so many supporters have put their trust in us,” Feenstra told the Sioux City Journal.

The Hill, meanwhile, reports that the latest fundraising reports show King spending more than he’s receiving in the form of donations:

Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) campaign operated in a deficit last quarter, spending about $8,000 more than the amount it took in.

King’s campaign took in just $61,666.52 during the first quarter of 2019, including $4,000 from PACs and the remainder from individual donors. His expenditures, meanwhile, topped $69,501.68 for the quarter, according to FEC filings.

A request for comment to King’s reelection campaign was not immediately returned. According to his FEC filings, King’s campaign has just over $26,000 cash on hand following the Iowa congressman’s close reelection battle last November against Democrat J.D. Scholten, who came within single digits of ousting King.

The nine-term lawmaker could face another heated battle for reelection in 2020, as Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) announced in January that he would mount a primary campaign against the controversial congressman. King has faced criticism from members of both parties over remarks he made about white supremacy.

Feenstra’s bid to unseat King raised more than $100,000 in its first 10 days.

King’s political problems began in January as the result of an interview with The New York Times during which the nine-term Iowa Republican questioned why favoring white supremacy was a bad thing and acknowledged his previous history of racist comments without repudiating them, was only the latest development in a long history of racist comments by the ten-term Iowa Congressman. This is, after all, a man who made his fame as the Republican Party’s loudest and most vitriolic voice in the anti-immigrant wing that began to grow late in the term of George W. Bush when party activists blocked an immigration reform plan back by Bush and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In the past, he has also become more and more bigoted in his comments about Muslims, including incidents in which he has spoken out against Muslims being allowed in the United States, suggested that Muslim-Americans should be barred from holding office, and against those who were elected and chose to be sworn in with their hand on a copy of the Koran.

Over the years, King has seemingly become more open about his sympathy for what are clearly white supremacist points of view, and an examination of his history shows he has a long history of remarks that can only be described as racist. Over the course of the past several years, for example, King has endorsed a candidate for Mayor of Toronto, Canada who has neo-Nazi ties, he has met with the leaders of a far-right political party in Austria that has been accused of questioning and downplaying the seriousness of the Holocaust. Among the accounts he follows on Twitter is an activist on the far-right of Australian politics who has, among other things, called for the hanging of a portrait of Adolf Hitler in every classroom in that country. On Twitter, he follows an Australian anti-Semitic activist, who proposed hanging a portrait of Hitler “in every classroom.”

When he spoke with a far-right publication in Austria last year, King seemed very familiar with racist conspiracy theories, books, and ideas embraced by white supremacists and neo-Nazis across the globe. For example, as the Times article noted, King spoke of something called “the Great Replacement,” which is basically a far-right conspiracy theory that so-called “elites” are seeking to reduce white populations across the globe and replace them with minority groups from other parts of the world. This is the conspiracy theory that inspired the torch-bearing protesters in Charlottesville who chanted slogans such as “Blood And Soil!,” a slogan that has its roots in Nazi Germany, and “Jews will not replace us!”  King has also forged close ties with far-right political leaders in Europe such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, who has built his reputation on being one of the most virulent anti-Muslim politicians in Western Europe and has advocated ideas such as closing mosques. in response to the influx of mostly Muslim refugees and immigrants from Syria and other parts of the Middle East. In March of 2017, King tweeted his endorsement of Wilders in a tweet, saying that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Domestically, King has become something of a hero to those on the so-called alt-right who have become more open about their beliefs in the wake of President Trump’s election. Andrew Anglin, who operates the far-right website Daily Stormer, and who joined others on the white supremacist right in celebrating Trump’s win in 2016, has been quoted as saying that King is “basically an open white nationalist at this point.” More recently, when the new Congress was sworn in last week along with a record number of women and African-Americans, as well as Muslim and Native American women, King apparently remarked that the Democratic side of the chamber looked like “no country for white men.”

While Republicans had ignored King’s rhetoric in the past, and in many cases sought out his support during the quadrennial Iowa Caucuses, that has changed over the past six months or so as he has seemingly become more and more extreme in his rhetoric. Prior to the November General Election, for example, there was some speculation that King could actually lose his re-election bid. While that obviously didn’t happen, King did only pull off a three-point win over his Democratic opponent, a far closer margin of victory than he had seen in the past. Additionally, King’s comments to the Times, for which he remains unrepentant, led his fellow Republicans to strip him of his committee assignments and led many top agricultural companies to withdraw their support for his candidacy. Whether that, combined with a money race that. for the moment, King appears to be losing, is enough to finally end his career remains to be seen.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Congress, Race and Politics, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I’ll amend my comment from the Roy Moore thread:
    Steve King, Roy Moore, and Donnie…the perfect expressions of today’s GOP.
    Let’s toss in a quote from Michelle Bachmann, re: Donnie Dennison, for good measure:

    “He is highly biblical, and I would say to your listeners, we will in all likelihood never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime. So we need to be not only praying for him, we need to support him, in my opinion, in every possible way that we can.”

    Apparently God is all-in on cheating on your wives, pathological lying, and paying hush money to porn stars…

  2. Kylopod says:

    As I’ve said before, I have a hard time believing he’d be successfully primaried for being too racist. Certainly, nothing like that’s ever happened before. And while a general-election loss is still a possibility, I don’t see it as especially likely. It’s an R+11 district, the most Republican district in Iowa, roughly on par with Louisiana or Montana at large. It went to Trump by 27 points in 2016. The fact that it was so close in 2018 was in part due to the strongly Democratic environment that year, which may or may not last to 2020, and even if it does he’d still probably be an odds-on favorite to win, just as he did do last time.

    In some ways he reminds me of Michelle Bachmann. Her brand was more religious extremism (and sheer stupidity) than racism, but like him she was an intemperate right-wing bomb-thrower who kept eking out narrow wins in her very Republican Minnesota district, until a financial scandal convinced her to retire, presumably because she didn’t think she’d win again.

  3. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Trump is “highly Biblical”???? Well, as someone once said of William Jennings Bryan, “He is in once sense scripturally formidable, in that he is equipped with the jawbone of an ass.”

  4. gVOR08 says:

    I suppose this is good news. But in some ways I prefer Republicans who are up front and honest about their bigotry over the sneaky ones.

  5. MarkedMan says:


    I have a hard time believing he’d be successfully primaried for being too racist

    I think this could happen, but it would be a bank shot. You are right that if racism bothered Iowan Republican voters to any degree they wouldn’t be voting Republican in the first place. But Iowa is still one of our most agricultural states and no other industry relies on direct and indirect government intervention as much as farming. And King’s constant wandering from agricultural issues and into the weeds of racism has cost his committee assignments. They may not care what He thinks or says amongst friends, but if his hobbies have cost Iowa power then they may be willing to toss him for not paying attention to his job.

  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    As it turns out, Bachman is speaking in a kind of code. King David is a revered figure in the old Testament. He desired Bathsheba, who was married to someone else – actually to his best friend – and so David sent that guy out on a suicide mission just so he could cozy up to his wife. The Bible describes David as “beloved of God”, which I now translate in my own head canon as “Man, that guy was so lucky, he got away with all kinds of stuff”.

    So when they say “biblical” they don’t necessarily mean “highly moral” especially when it comes to sexual mores.

  7. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    The Biblical god is very much a bronze age mythical god, as capricious, cruel, and petty as any of the Olympians. Ask Job, who lost his family, his wealth, and his health in order to settle a bet, then got reprimanded for his troubles.

    BTW, the ancient Hebrews, say up to the middle of the Roman Empire, before Constantine I, were very much a near average people as regarded the practice of religion. They made animal sacrifices to their god in his temples, same as everyone else, had holy days and festivals, etc. They were odd in having only one god, in not worshiping any other gods, and in not representing their god. Which seems a major difference but it really isn’t, especially when you compare that to Christianity even in its earliest days. In particular, at the time people worshiped the gods to gain their favor and prosper, win battles, defeat their enemies, etc. Christians didn’t do this at all(*).

    After Augustus, Roman emperors were deified after death, and worship of the Caesars was required of all Roman citizens and subjects.This was more a political than a religious matter, as it signaled loyalty to Rome. The Hebrews were allowed to offer sacrifices to their god in the name of a dead emperor, rather than to the dead emperor himself. This compromise more or less kept the peace from time to time.

    (*) The story of how Constantine I converted to Christianity, does involve Jesus granting him favor in battle in exchange for worship.

  8. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: Interesting stuff. Thanks.

    I’m reasonably sure that they see Trump as an annointed leader that will fight the strongest fight possible for them. That is to say, their support is transactional. After all the complaining about Bill Clinton’s blowjob, at least they get it now.

    I don’t really understand the details of the transaction, though. I think the pillars are 1) appoint conservative justices so that we can overturn Roe v. Wade (actually Casey v. Planned Parenthood, but whatever), 2) Make trans people go away and start acting like the abominations that the Bible says they are, and 3) Overturn same sex marriage.

    The problem that I have is that he’s not making progress on 1 or 3, and 2 he’s being as nasty as possible but it appears to be a losing battle since most people, once they get to know a trans person, realize that it’s maybe not the horror they thought it was, and want to just get on with life.

    They make a big show of appointing conservative justices, and then you find lots of very conservative legal people saying on websites and in private that “Roe v. Wade is settled law”. Somebody is being conned, for sure.

    But Trump has his warrior’s mantle, just because he’s willing to be a jerk in public.

  9. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I don’t really understand the details of the transaction,

    It’s hard to understand the irrational, isn’t it?

    But IMO, it comes down to immigration. Trump’s supporters want to throw everyone out, and not let anyone else in, and they think they can do it quite easily.

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: I can see that immigration is a big deal for Trump supporters, I just can’t fathom how they can connect that to their faith. This is not a place where the teachings of the Church or Jesus himself have any ambiguity. And yet I know some Catholics who support Trump transactionally, while admitting to me that they generally would not allow a person who behaves like that into their house.

    With regard to immigration, they say, “I just want to see the law enforced”. That isn’t exactly full-throated, but as yet nothing seems to be able to drive a wedge between them and Trump.

  11. Kylopod says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    The problem that I have is that he’s not making progress on 1 or 3

    He just appointed a right-wing toady to replace Kennedy, the last remaining conservative justice to have upheld Roe in the Casey decision.

  12. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    My operating theory is that religion is a cover for a host of prejudices, and right now anti-immigration is dialed up high.

  13. An Intertested Party says:

    Trump is “highly Biblical”????

    He sure is, in this sense

    After Augustus, Roman emperors were deified after death, and worship of the Caesars was required of all Roman citizens and subjects.

    Oh look, a historical similarity to today’s GOP, in how they think of Reagan and, increasingly, in how they think of Trump…

  14. Kathy says:

    Case in point: Immigrants requesting asylum won’t be elegible for release on bond.

    See? He’s keeping you safe from women, children, and others desperate to escape violence. Man, if not for Trump, these people might do useful work and pay taxes!

  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kylopod: Sure. Maybe that’s what’s coming. All I know is someone is being conned, but I’m not sure who it is.