Controversial Incumbent Rep. Steve King Loses His Primary: 'Iowa Republicans Rejected Him'

Claudia Harmata

Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King lost his primary race on Tuesday night, bringing his decade-plus in Congress to an end.

King — who in recent years lost the support of his party for his far-right views and history of racist and polarizing rhetoric — was beaten by state Sen. Randy Feenstra after serving as representative for Iowa's 4th District since 2003.

"Congratulations @RandyFeenstra on winning the GOP primary in #IA04!" the Republican Party's chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, tweeted Tuesday.

Reflecting King's estrangement from other conservatives, she added: "Steve King’s white supremacist rhetoric is totally inconsistent with the Republican Party, and I’m glad Iowa Republicans rejected him at the ballot box."

King, 71, has yet to make a statement about the loss and did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

RELATED: Republican Lawmaker Steve King Slammed as 'Out of His Mind' for Suggesting Population Was Due to Rape & Incest


Following his victory, Feenstra thanked King for his time in office and said he looked forward to the upcoming general election in November, during which he will face off against Democrat J.D. Scholten, who was unopposed in his party's contest.

This is also Scholten's second consecutive time running for the seat.

“I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support over the past 17 months that made tonight possible and I thank Congressman King for his decades of public service," Feenstra said in a statement following his victory, according to several reports.

"As we turn to the General Election, I will remain focused on my plans to deliver results for the families, farmers and communities of Iowa," he added.

On Twitter Tuesday night, after King was defeated, Scholten wrote: "Not-Steve King isn't good enough. We need leadership and vision and not another corporate-backed career politician."

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According to the Des Moines Register, Feenstra, backed by the GOP, defeated King by a margin of nearly 10 points — 45.7 to 36 percent — or nearly 8,000 votes. King had drawn significant backlash in the state and national media for his inflammatory rhetoric in the past, including questioning how white supremacy was offensive in 2019.

While speaking to The New York Times last year, King asked "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?"

In a later statement to the Times, King attempted to clarify what he said, calling himself a “nationalist” who did not support “white supremacy” but instead was an advocate for “western civilization’s values.”

“I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define,” he said.

Those comments prompted Republican leaders to strip King of all committee assignments, after years of similar comments.

RELATED: Meghan McCain Condemns GOP Congressman for Racist Comment: 'I Am John McCain's Daughter'

Joshua Lott/Getty Images; Charlie Neibergall/AP/Shutterstock Iowa Rep. Steve King (left) and state Sen. Randy Feenstra

Prominent members of both parties also called for King’s resignation last August after he suggested the world’s population would be slim were it not for rape and incest. At the time, he was reportedly speaking in defense of his stance that anti-abortion legislation should not make exceptions for pregnant victims of rape and incest to the Register.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King had said.

His removal from Congressional committees helped the GOP push support for Feenstra during the election as King could no longer really influence legislation, which Feenstra focused on during his campaign.

"Whatever you think of Steve King, it's clear he's no longer effective," longtime Iowa social conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats said in a Feenstra ad. "He can't deliver for President Trump and he can't advance our conservative values."