(Reuters) – Firebrand U.S. congressman Steve King, who was called out by his colleagues last year for using hateful rhetoric, lost his bid for reelection on Tuesday as a Republican rival defeated him for their party’s nomination in an Iowa primary election.
Randy Feenstra, a state senator who had the backing of several major Republican organizations, was projected by several news organizations as the winner in Iowa’s 4th congressional district. His victory increases the odds that Republicans will hold onto the seat in November.
Voters in the district had returned King to Congress before despite his incendiary comments, often directed against immigrants. Tuesday’s vote came at a particularly charged moment, as major cities have seen widespread protests over the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd last week.
The House last year overwhelmingly voted to repudiate King’s comments questioning why “white supremacy” is offensive, with King himself joining in that vote. The House stripped him of his committee assignments as a result.
A month later, he wondered aloud whether the human race would exist without rape and incest, prompting renewed calls for him to step down.
King urged construction of a border wall in 2006, nearly a decade before Trump ran for president calling for the same.
The loss of his committee posts gave a new opening to King’s opponents to question his effectiveness. Feenstra focused his attacks on King by arguing that he was no longer an effective ally for Trump in Washington.
King’s political baggage had endangered the seat for Republicans; in 2018, amid a Democratic wave, J.D. Scholten came within 3 percentage points of beating King.
Scholten ran again, unopposed, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, but his chances are considerably longer against Feenstra.
Reporting by Joseph Ax and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker