In rare upset, Steve King is defeated by Republican challenger Randy Feenstra

State Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment that would state abortion is not protected under the Iowa Constitution. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In a major upset, Republican challenger Randy Feenstra defeated longtime Republican incumbent Steve King during Tuesday’s primary election.

For years, Iowa Democrats have unsuccessfully tried to pry away King’s seat in conservative western Iowa, though challenger J.D. Scholten came close in 2018. 

Steve King is a U.S. Representative serving the 4th district of Iowa. (Photo by: U.S. Rep. Steve King)

Since King took office, his controversial remarks have garnered him national attention and sometimes condemnation from his own party. In 2019, House Republican leaders removed him from the judiciary and agricultural committees after he questioned why white supremacy is offensive in an interview with the New York Times.

“This is a rare election result that delights both parties’ House leadership,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, editor at Cook Political Report. “Dems will view it as a rejection of white nationalism. But state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) defeated King by calling him an ineffective ally to Trump after he was stripped of his committee assignments.”

Feenstra, an Iowa state senator from Hull, far outraised King during the first quarter. Several prominent Republicans backed Feenstra, including Bob Vander Plaats, a well-known religious conservative leader in the party.

Beyond Iowa’s 4th District race, Tuesday night’s election stood out because of the number of female candidates who won their primaries. Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Theresa Greenfield all handily defeated their challengers.

Voters also had to navigate the election during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting nearly 400,000 people to vote through absentee ballots, according to the Iowa Secretary of State.