Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has a long history of racist and outrageous remarks, lost his long-held House seat in a primary race Tuesday, NBC News projected.
With 87 percent of the vote counted at 11:08 p.m. CT, King trailed his challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, by 2,500 votes, 41.7 percent to 38 percent.
The Republican primary challenge, the fiercest since King was first elected to Congress in 2002, came after he was stripped of his committee assignments in the House last year because of comments to The New York Times about white nationalism.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he asked a reporter then.
The loss of his committee posts reduced King’s power in the House — a fact his four Republican opponents seized on in the campaign.
“The 4th District needs a seat at the table, an effective conservative voice,” Feenstra said in a debate last month.
Feenstra had a massive money advantage against King and the other candidates. He poured over $230,000 into TV ads, and outside groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads and outreach in his behalf. His campaign reported having over $120,000 in cash on hand in the latest reporting period, while King had $32,000.
In an op-ed in the Sioux City Journal in May, King called the primary “the epicenter of the battle against the swamp right now.”
“I can face the swamp down because we’re right and they’re wrong and they know it,” he said.
Meanwhile, during the coronavirus, more people are voting in the primary by mail than in the last cycle. According to the Iowa secretary of state’s office, over 59,000 absentee ballots had been received by Tuesday. A total of 39,000 people voted in the GOP primary in 2018.
King, 71, had been enormously popular in his rural, highly conservative district, but that waned in recent years as some constituents became frustrated with his frequent outrageous comments.
While arguing in favor of abortion bans that make exceptions for rape and incest last year, he said rape and incest have been essential to the survival of humanity.
While King had won his earlier general election races by an average of 10 percentage points, he won his last race, against Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018, by just 3 points. The well-funded Scholten ran unopposed in the Democratic primary Tuesday.