Rep. Steve King ousted in Iowa GOP primary, NBC News projects

House Republicans stripped the longtime lawmaker of his committee assignments after outlandish statements.
Image: Steve King
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

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By Dareh Gregorian

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has a long history of racist and outrageous remarks, lost his long-held House seat in a Republican primary on Tuesday, NBC News projected.

With 98 percent of the vote counted, King trailed his main rival, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, by 7,866 votes, or 45.7 percent to 35.9 percent. Three other GOP candidates were each in single digits.

President Donald Trump, who did not endorse in the primary, congratulated Feenstra on Wednesday morning.

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.

Full primary election results

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.

King's compared undocumented immigrants to "dirt" and "bird dogs" and called for building an electrified fence at the southern U.S. border.

King, who used to keep a Confederate flag on his office desk, has also repeatedly lamented the declining white birthrate and tweeted in 2017: "Diversity is not our strength."

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.

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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.

Tuesday was also quietly a big night for former Vice President Joe Biden, who came within sight of formally securing the Democratic presidential nomination after winning hundreds more delegates in primary contests that tested the nation's ability to run elections while balancing a pandemic and sweeping social unrest.

Biden added 367 delegates bringing his total to 1,921, NBC News projected, putting him just under the 1,991 delegates needed to lock up the nomination. He will likely go over the top on Tuesday when there are primaries in Georgia and West Virginia.

Bernie Sanders, who has quit the race, picked up three delegates, bringing his total to 1,020, according to NBC News.

On Tuesday, voters across America were forced to navigate curfews, health concerns and National Guard troops — waiting in line hours after polls closed in some cases — after election officials dramatically reduced the number of in-person voting sites to minimize the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Biden and President Donald Trump easily swept their respective primary contests that ranged from Maryland to Montana and featured the night’s biggest prize: Pennsylvania. The two men are certain to face each other on the presidential ballot in November, yet party rules require them first to accumulate a majority of delegates in the monthslong state-by-state primary season.

Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination in March.

The Associated Press contributed.