(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 backed by several major Republican organizations, was projected by several news organizations as the winner in Iowa’s 4th congressional district, increasing the odds that Republicans will keep 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.
“Congratulations to Randy Feenstra on your big win in the Iowa Republican Primary. You will be a great Congressman!,” tweeted President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican who has pushed a hard-line response to the protesters and faced sharp criticism over his handling of the racial discord as he faces his own his re-election bid on Nov. 3.
The House last year overwhelmingly voted to repudiate King’s comments questioning why “white supremacy” is offensive, with King himself joining in that vote, and stripped him of his committee assignments.
A month later, he wondered aloud whether the human race would exist without rape and incest, prompting renewed calls for him to step down.
The loss of his committee posts allowed King’s opponents to question his effectiveness, with Feenstra arguing the lawmaker was no longer an effective ally for Trump in Washington.
King’s political baggage had endangered the seat for Republicans, who lost the chamber in 2018 amid a Democratic wave.
J.D. Scholten came within 3 percentage points of beating King in 2018. 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)