GOP lawmakers say Steve King’s loss could help them in November

Greg Nash

Top Republicans in the House are expressing relief that embattled Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was defeated in his primary Tuesday night, saying his ouster removes a hurdle to retaining a traditionally red seat and a drag on other Republicans on the November ballot.

Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) beat King for the Republican nomination for Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District by about 10 points.

“Defeating Steve King does more than just move one more guaranteed seat into the GOP column. It sends a signal that House Republicans and GOP voters are going to put their support behind candidates that we as a party can be proud of, and ones that have the best chance of winning on November 3rd,” one GOP congressional aide said.  

King narrowly won his re-election bid in 2018, coming in with just over 50 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican-leaning district, with some GOP lawmakers fearing his inflammatory remarks were tainting the party’s image and putting what should be a reliably safe seat at risk.  

The issue came to a head last year when Republican leadership removed him from his committee assignments following comments he made to The New York Times questioning why the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” became offensive. 

A number of his House colleagues denounced his rhetoric and some donated to Feenstra’s campaign.

“As you are aware – I was one of the first members to contribute to Feenstra as Mr. King repeatedly made statements that offended my principles,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) told The Hill.  

Multiple GOP operatives pointed to nonpartisan political handicapper Cook Political Report moving the district from “likely Republican” to “solid Republican” in the wake of the nine-term Republican’s loss.  

“The Republican voters have spoken and this race is officially off the board for the Democrats in November,” National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Chris Pack said. 

Operatives and lawmakers said that the recent protests around the country in response to the death of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis police custody underscore the need for a change in the district. 

“I think he got himself in a bad place, and it became a national issue, and especially right now with the murder of George Floyd and everything associated with that, I think having Randy win that primary sent a pretty strong signal and really took an issue off the table in Iowa that might have had some sort of national play,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a former chairman of the NRCC, told The Hill.  

“You could see that brewing. And so I think his win will be important, it will, it will be one of those situations about collision avoidance, I’ll call it. It takes something off the table that otherwise would have been on the table, especially right now.”

Lawmakers said King’s loss could help them beyond Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District, arguing that the controversies surrounding King could have had a negative impact on other districts in the state and on Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). 

“I think it could impact Joni’s race and others just again because the whole set of issues swirling around Steve would have intensified, especially in this environment that we’re in tragically right now, and going into the fall, and I just think it would have continued to spin up. Now it dissipates. And so, in politics you know there’s kind of the wave you want to ride in the way if you don’t want to get hit by. And so in some respects that there was a wave coming in here that was gonna hit a bunch of people that now peters out,” Walden said.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), another former NRCC chairman, echoed Walden’s sentiments, saying King could have candidates hurt both up and down the ballot. 

“It’s helpful in 4 ways,” he told The Hill. One, he might have lost in November, Randy Feenstra will win easily in November. Two, he won’t be a burden on Trump. Three, he won’t be a drag on Sen. Ernst. Four, he can’t be used as an albatross around every Republicans’ neck.”


Al Weaver contributed. 

Tags Greg Walden Iowa Joni Ernst Paul Mitchell Steve King Steve Stivers

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