The main fight was an undeniable referendum on King, not for his conservatism, but for his effectiveness in office. His lack of power, far more than his specific words and his track record of comments on race, became a central theme in this year’s race, with opponents arguing that he cannot represent his views in the House or on the administration.
King has said that his words have been mischaracterized and taken out of context, blaming the media and Republican leaders for leading revenge against him.
“The Never Trumpers are the people who uncovered all of this,” King said in a recent debate, speaking with an air of defiance about Republicans “who want Steve King out of the way.”
Feenstra was seen as King’s toughest opponent in a five-man race that included former state legislator Jeremy Taylor, businessmen Steve Reeder and army veteran Bret Richards.
“I am truly honored by the large amount of support in the past 17 months that made this evening possible and I thank Congressman King for his decades of public service,” Feenstra said in a statement. “As we move into the general election, I will remain focused on my plans to deliver results for Iowa families, farmers, and communities. But first, we must ensure that this seat does not fall into the hands of Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies. in Congress. Tomorrow, we will return to work. “
“The 4th District needs a seat at the table, an effective and conservative voice,” Feenstra said in a recent debate. “Our district, our president, deserves an effective conservative leader in Congress.”
Two years ago, fewer than 3,000 ballots were registered in absentia. The dramatic increase in absentee ballots seemed to help condemn the lifelong congressman by attracting new Republican voters.
Bob Vander Plaats, a longtime supporter of King and an influential Christian conservative, backed Feenstra, concerned that if King wins the primary, Democrats would have a better chance of not only winning his deep red light district in northwest Iowa but also defeating to President Donald Trump and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former professional baseball player, was within three points of beating King in 2018 and is running again.
Last week Vander Plaats told CNN that there had been “increasing fatigue” with King in the 4th District and “gradual clarity” that “his voice is no longer wanted at the table.”
King replied that Vander Plaats and Feenstra are sacrificing their principles “in their wrong effort to shut down royal conservatives and turn this district over to RINOs and NeverTrumpers.”
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Manu Raju contributed to this report.