White Supremacist Steve King Ousted in GOP Primary

Iowa Republicans have had enough of being represented by a racist buffoon.

NYT (“Steve King, House Republican With a History of Racist Remarks, Loses Primary“):

Representative Steve King of Iowa, the nine-term Republican with a history of racist comments who only recently became a party pariah, lost his bid for renomination early Wednesday, one of the biggest defeats of the 2020 primary season in any state.

In a five-way primary, Mr. King was defeated by Randy Feenstra, a state senator, who had the backing of mainstream state and national Republicans who found Mr. King an embarrassment and, crucially, a threat to a safe Republican seat if he were on the ballot in November.

The defeat was most likely the final political blow to one of the nation’s most divisive elected officials, whose insults of undocumented immigrants foretold the messaging of President Trump, and whose flirtations with extremism led him far from rural Iowa, to meetings with anti-Muslim crusaders in Europe and an endorsement of a Toronto mayoral candidate with neo-Nazi ties.

POLITICO (“Steve King ousted on historic primary night“) adds:

Rep. Steve King will leave Congress after this year, ending a nearly two-decade-long career that included numerous inflammatory comments on race and immigration.

The Iowa Republican lost his bid for a 10th term on Tuesday, when GOP voters in his northwest Iowa district awarded state Sen. Randy Feenstra with the nomination after a fierce primary battle with King.

Feenstra led King by 10 points, 46 to 36 percent, with nearly all precincts reporting late Tuesday night. His decisive victory is a boon to leaders in both parties, including Republican leaders who stripped King of his committee assignments last year and had long felt his offensive and racist rhetoric cast a shadow on the party.

GOP heavyweights from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to evangelical leaders and the Iowa political establishment united against King. But they did not hone in on his decades-long penchant for abrasive comments. Steering clear of direct attacks on the congressman, they largely painted him as an ineffective member of Congress, who had no sway in Washington.

[…]

Feenstra’s victory will likely boost the GOP’s chances of keeping the seat. Though he holds a district Trump won by nearly 30 points, King barely beat his 2018 Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten, who is running again.

[…]

The fate of King, an opponent of immigration and multiculturalism who has supported white nationalist candidates abroad, was sealed amid massive social protests in the wake of the killing of an unarmed black man by a Minneapolis police officer last week.

A remark he made to The New York Times in 2019, questioning when white supremacy and white nationalism had become negative terms, launched a maelstrom that got him booted off congressional committees.

King’s detractors claimed he is not able to effectively advocate for northwest Iowa. As polls tightened in the final weeks between King and Feenstra, outside groups dumped money into the race in a last-ditch effort to oust the incumbent.

While I’m happy with the result, I’m a bit bemused that a district that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump finally tired of King’s boorishness. If anything, Trump is a more bombastic version of King.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Congress, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    It’s pretty clear that Iowan’s were ok with his white supremacy. It wasn’t until he lost his seat on the agricultural committee that they turned against him. From what’s been reported his opponent focused on that and barely mentioned the racism.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    From a piece in The Atlantic

    The campaign may have been the fight of King’s political life, but it didn’t actually involve much talk of his racism. Throughout the past few months, King’s Republican opponents chose not to focus on King’s rhetoric; instead, they endeavored to portray the congressman, who has been removed from three committee positions, as just another ineffective, complacent career politician. Which is to say that the message Republicans sent to King was not a condemnation of his racist comments, but rather a broader denunciation for an even graver political sin: putting a safe seat in danger.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Sigh. That’s not good.

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  4. Not the IT Dept. says:

    There is talk that Feenstra isn’t much better, just not as blatant.

    If Iowa is serious about repudiating King, they’ll vote Democrat in November.

    4
  5. Scott says:

    who only recently became a party pariah

    That says something, doesn’t it.

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  6. mistermix says:

    Iowa’s 4th is R+11, but Iowa 1, 2 and 3 are basically even (D+1 or R+1) and all have Democrats as representatives. Iowa is a pretty clear example of how Republicans gerrymander themselves into extremism. They could have two competitive “likely R” districts (R+5 or R+6) but instead they have one overwhelmingly red one. That leads to extremists like King and his replacement.

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  7. drj says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    If Iowa is serious about repudiating King, they’ll vote Democrat in November.

    Three of Iowa’s four congressional districts elected Democrats in 2018. King’s district (the 4th) is R+11. Not much hope there.

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  8. Teve says:

    @johnlray

    Steve King continues to honor the confederacy by getting just destroyed on his home turf.

    16
  9. drj says:

    @mistermix:

    Iowa is a pretty clear example of how Republicans gerrymander themselves into extremism.

    Iowa is not really gerrymandered.

    It’s just a largely rural and white state – especially the northwestern corner.

    6
  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Teve:

    You might say his political career has become a “Lost Cause” 😉

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  11. sam says:

    I went to Feenstra’s website for a look-see. Pretty much King, with cleaner underwear.

    4
  12. Moosebreath says:

    @mistermix:

    “Iowa’s 4th is R+11, but Iowa 1, 2 and 3 are basically even (D+1 or R+1) and all have Democrats as representatives. Iowa is a pretty clear example of how Republicans gerrymander themselves into extremism. They could have two competitive “likely R” districts (R+5 or R+6) but instead they have one overwhelmingly red one.”

    If Iowa were gerrymandered by Republicans, they would be more likely to create 3 R+6 districts, which would be safe barring a large wave, and a D+10 district. That way they would expect to elect 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat.

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  13. de stijl says:

    Theresa Greenfield against Ernst in the fall.

    Leans R now. Come fall a blue wave would make this attainable.

    Ernst is not popular.

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  14. de stijl says:

    If you are too overtly racist for today’s GOP …

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  15. senyordave says:

    Iowa Republicans have had enough of being represented by a racist buffoon.

    I’m shocked, since Republicans throughout America can’t seem to get enough of Trump, who is every bit as much a racist, buffoon as King. He might not be quite as open about his racism as King was, but this is the same person who embraced birtherism, helped to enforce the Trump Organization’s policy of not renting to blacks, and uttered the old racist trope “go back where you came from” referring to four congresswomen of color (three of whom were born in the US). Trump is so horrible it is almost possible to forget he is a hard core racist, but I’m sure he’ll open his yap again and give us all a fresh reminder.

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  16. de stijl says:

    @senyordave:

    King once called Obama “very, very urban”.

    1
  17. James Joyner says:

    @drj: @Moosebreath:

    Yup. While I reflexively think of Iowa as Republican because it’s overwhelmingly white and rural, it’s almost the quintesential swing state:

    2016 51.2% R, 41.7% D
    2012 52.0% D, 46.2% R
    2008 53.9% D, 44.4% R
    2004 49.9% R, 49.3% D
    2000 48.5% D, 48.2% R

    I don’t have breakdowns for earlier elections but the topline:
    1996: D
    1992: D
    1988: D

    But it wasn’t always in play:
    1984: R
    1980: R
    1976: R
    1972: R
    1968: R
    1964: D (but everyone was D that year)
    1960: R
    1956: R
    1952: R

    4
  18. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s white and rural*, but is upper midwest so more liberal than you’d think.

    *there are Urban Areas (UA) and Urbanized Clusters (UC) per Census Bureau definitions.

    UAs are 50k plus, UCs are 2.5 to 50k.

    Iowa has few UAs, but many UCs. And many college towns. Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Rapids are D+. As is Des Moines, obviously.

    I had to integrate Census Bureau data in a past life.

    4
  19. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: speaking from family experience here, Iowa was a state whose colleges and universities would admit black students during the Jim Crow era. I have several elderly family members who attended school in those college towns de stijl names.

    2
  20. Scott says:

    @de stijl: Prairie socialism was a real thing for the Great Plains and Upper Midwest. What was the big change? I would say Evangelical Christianity and abortion. Though it is probably more complex than that.

    5
  21. de stijl says:

    @Scott:

    The Minnesota Democratic party name is officially Democratic – Farmer – Labor Party aka DFL. A remnant of that era.

    I would offer up 60’s Civil Rights movement backlash. White folks get prickly.

    Our great sin bites us again.

    4
  22. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Whoever invented ZIP Codes deserves a post mortem Presidential Medal of Honor.

    Made my life so much easier.

    Not very granular, but made joining to purchased data so easy.

    1
  23. Kathy says:

    @Scott:

    I’ll take a blind stab and guess: Agribusiness by big corporations.

    1
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:
    @MarkedMan: I was wondering why we were sure that this is a sign of a “better” Republican party and not just picking someone who is a better dog whistler. I see that’s already been addressed though.

    1
  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Also, the map of the districts at least looks fairly straight forward. link

    2
  26. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Story county (Ames) gets its vote diluted, but that does happen in Congressional districts.

    Compared to spaghetti districts in the Old Confederacy, Iowa’s map seems quaintly staightforward.

    If only we had an an enforcible Voting Rights Act that had not been gutted.

    1
  27. de stijl says:

    @Scott:

    The Iron Range in northern MN is not prairie socialism, but unionism. A remnant thereof.

    You look at at the demographics blindly and would deem it R+10.

    It is not. A bunch of radical unionist Finns up on the range, and damned good hockey players to boot.

  28. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    While I reflexively think of Iowa as Republican because it’s overwhelmingly white and rural, it’s almost the quintesential swing state

    The thing is, white and rural hasn’t always automatically translated to “Republican” historically. One thing people forget about Dukakis, partly because he lost in such a huge landslide, and also because he’s gone down in history as a quintessential example of a “coastal elite,” is that he did quite well among white, rural voters compared with most of the subsequent Democratic nominees. Iowa was his second-best state, and one of two states that voted for him by double digits. He also kept things surprisingly close in states like South Dakota and Montana, while actually doing worse in states like New Jersey that have since become reliably blue. Part of this was due to the farm crisis in the ’80s, which turned many rural voters against the Republican Party, even in the midst of a Republican landslide. Bill Clinton did well among those voters as well, though Obama absolutely did not. The rural-urban partisan divide is very much a 21st-century phenomenon.

    5