Republican voters in Iowa on Tuesday ousted Steve King, the nine-term congressman with a history of inflammatory comments on race and immigration.
State Sen. Randy Feenstra defeated King in Tuesday’s primary, according to The Associated Press, and will be favored to keep his district in GOP hands in the general election.
Rep. Steve King is in trouble.
The Iowa Republican trailed his primary challenger as initial results trickled in Tuesday night. State Sen. Randy Feenstra led King by about 4 percentage points as of 11:15 p.m. Eastern Time, according to totals from The Associated Press.
King’s political career could come to a crashing halt as Iowa Republicans decide the fate of the congressman whose offensive and racist rhetoric has moved heavyweights in his own party to plot against him.
Iowa is one of nine states holding primaries in the biggest election night since the coronavirus gripped the nation. Voters in the state backed Democrat Theresa Greenfield to take on Republican Sen. Joni Ernst this fall in a race that could be critical to which party controls the Senate next year. And across the country voters are choosing nominees in a dozen House battlegrounds in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Montana.
King’s primary has drawn the most attention of the dozens on the ballot Tuesday. He will face four primary challengers in what is shaping up to be his most difficult campaign since his 2002 election. The most formidable is Feenstra, who boasts endorsements and outside help from business and religious leaders in Iowa and Washington.
The fate of King, an opponent of immigration and multiculturalism who has supported white nationalist candidates abroad, will be decided amid massive social protests in the wake of the killing of an unarmed black man by a Minneapolis police officer last week. But should he fall short on Tuesday night, it will not be because his opponents honed in on his decadeslong penchant for abrasive comments.
Feenstra, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, evangelical leaders and the Iowa political establishment, have painted King as ineffective.
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 have 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 Feenstra is the strongest challenger on the ballot, King could benefit from a splintered field. Former state Rep. Jeremy Taylor, Army veteran Bret Richards and businessman Steve Reeder are also running and will likely siphon away some of the anti-King vote.
King’s race will have ramifications elsewhere in Iowa, including in the state’s Senate race.
Democrats decided on their nominee to take on Ernst, the first-term senator who captured the seat six years ago running as an outsider, famous for an ad in which she said she would make Washington “squeal.”
Greenfield, who had backing from national Democrats and local labor organizations, won relatively easily, holding a comfortable double digit margin and clearing the 35 percent threshold to avoid the race going to a party convention. Greenfield had a vast financial edge, having outraised all of her competitors, and had a much stronger campaign apparatus behind her. She also benefited from substantial spending on her behalf by outside groups, which has rankled some of her opponents.
Mike Franken, a retired, three-star Navy admiral, was her closest competitor but fell well short despite gaining some momentum down the stretch from an endorsement by the Des Moines Register.
Democrats have millions of dollars in TV ads booked for the fall, hoping Iowa could be a competitive state that gives them a clearer shot at regaining the Senate majority.
Elsewhere on the Senate map, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and GOP Sen. Steve Daines both easily won their respective nominations Tuesday as they prepare to square off in the Montana Senate race. And Republicans nominated Mark Ronchetti, a local TV weatherman, to take on Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who was unopposed in New Mexico’s Democratic Senate primary.
The race for Lujan’s open congressional seat in northern New Mexico features a familiar name: CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked during the George W. Bush administration. Plame has outraised the field — and even received a campaign donation from actress Naomi Watts, who portrayed her in a 2010 movie on the scandal. But some outside groups, including EMILY’s List, have coalesced around attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, who took an early lead as votes began to roll in on Tuesday night.
Republicans will choose nominees in several Democratic-held districts that President Donald Trump won, including those represented by Reps. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.). Both parties will also tap their candidates in an open competitive House seat in southeast Iowa.
Meanwhile, Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) is headed for a rematch with former Rep. David Young (R-Iowa), who easily won the primary Tuesday night. And in a district in the northeast region of the state, state Rep. Ashley Hinson secured the GOP nomination to take on Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa).
The contests come amid the backdrop of the pandemic and massive civil unrest, which is posing challenges for election officials across the country. Several cities that are holding elections have curfews in place and an increased police presence, which voting rights activists worry could depress turnout.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order on Monday extending the deadline for when absentee ballots can be received in six counties until June 9, as long as they’re postmarked by this Tuesday.
“The volume of applications in the six counties caused by the COVID-19 crisis combined with the recent civil disturbance make it necessary to extend the deadline for the counties to receive completed civilian absentee and mail-in ballots,” an announcement from the governor’s office read.
In the District of Columbia, voters reported not receiving absentee ballots they requested, and a city that usually has over 100 polling places saw it condensed to 20 voting centers. Voters told POLITICO at one voting center that they waited to cast their ballots, as election officials limited the amount of people who could vote at once due to social distancing guidelines.