Iowa state Senator Randy Feenstra announced Wednesday that he will mount a primary challenge to longtime Iowa Rep. Steve King next year.
King, who embraced “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” in an interview with The New York Times, complaining that the terms were considered “offensive,” has been in Congress since 2003. He previously served for six years on the Iowa state Senate.
“Today, Iowa’s 4th District doesn’t have a voice in Washington, because our current representative’s caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table,” Feenstra said in a statement announcing his run Wednesday. “We don’t need any more sideshows or distractions, we need to start winning for Iowa’s families.”
Feenstra, a former candy salesman, is in his third term in the state Senate. He is the state Senate assistant majority leader.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Randy Feenstra is a Former Candy Salesman
The Sioux City Journal reported that Feenstra, 49, earned his undergraduate degree from Dordt College in Sioux Center before earning an MBA at Iowa State University.
After graduating, Feenstra worked as a sales manager for the Foreign Candy Company in Hull for seven years. He also served for seven years as the city administrator in Hull.
In 2006, Feenstra won an election to become the Sioux County Treasurer.
In 2008, he was elected to the state Senate. He has since been re-elected twice.
In the state Senate, he has risen to become assistant majority leader and chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax policy.
In 2018, Feenstra led the effort to overhaul the state’s income tax system, which produced the largest tax cut in Iowa history.
2. Feenstra Slams Steve King’s ‘Caustic Nature,’ ‘Sideshows’ & ‘Distractions’
“Today, Iowa’s 4th District doesn’t have a voice in Washington because our current representative’s caustic nature has left us without a seat at the table,” Feenstra said in a statement announcing his primary challenge Wednesday. “We don’t need any more sideshows or distractions. We need to start winning for Iowa families.”
“This isn’t a whim,” Feenstra later told the Sioux City Journal. “We weren’t going to do this unless there was a true passion for change in the 4th District. From the farming community to business people, people said, ‘It is time. We just need a fresh face.'”
Feenstra told the outlet he is not planning to make the campaign about King’s frequent controversial comments.
“I am not running against King. I am showing that a difference can be made,” he said.
Feenstra, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, said there need to be more “effective conservative leaders in Congress who will not only support his agenda, but actually get things done.”
“What we’ve seen this past week from the new Democratic majority in Congress is appalling,” Feenstra said. “They’ve made it clear that they want nothing less than to raise taxes to historic levels, ignore the rule of law and undue the successes made by President Trump.”
3. Feenstra’s Run Come After Steve King Nearly Lost Heavily GOP District
Feenstra told the Sioux City Journal that he decided to run after King came close to losing his seat for the first time in nine elections.
“Wow, we just about lost in the most heavily Republican district in Iowa,” Feenstra recalled saying to the Journal on election night.
King won his re-election bid by just 3 percent. He had won his previous re-election race by more than 22 percent.
Former Sioux County Republican Party Chairman Mark Lundberg told the Journal that he knew of “strong interest from more than one” other potential Republican candidate after King’s close call.
Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 50,000 registered voters in King’s district.
In the 2018 Republican primary, King defeated Sioux City Republican Cyndi Hanson by nearly 50 points. In 2014, King defeated Sioux City state Senator Rick Bertrand by 30 points in the Republican primary.
4. Steve King Campaign Already Complaining About Primary Challenge From Feenstra
King’s son Jeff, who is also his campaign manager, slammed Feenstra’s primary bid. Jeff King said that Feenstra had told him just last month, “I love your dad and I would never run against him.”
“Today, misguided political opportunism, fueled by establishment puppeteers, has revealed that Mr. Feenstra is easily swayed by the lies of the Left,” King said in a statement. “From his statements, it appears that Mr. Feenstra offers Republican voters nothing but warmed over talking points from liberal blogs and failed Democratic candidates.”
Jeff King called Feenstra’s bid “an obvious attempt to undermine an effective and leading congressional ally of the president.”
He added that Feenstra’s is “the third attempt by the establishment in as many primary cycles to take the 4th District out of the hands of grassroots Republicans.”
5. Steve King Has Long History of Embracing White Supremacists & Nationalists
King has long been one of the most controversial members of Congress due to his embrace of white nationalist ideology.
During the 2016 campaign, King met with members of an Austrian political party founded by a former Nazi SS officer, The Des Moines Register reported. King also praised far-right white nationalist Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy on Twitter in October.
Vox also noted that King has retweeted neo-Nazis, warned of immigrants with “calves the size of cantaloupes” smuggling drugs into America, and wrote that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
King told The New York Times in an article published Thursday that he is dismayed that terms like “white supremacist” have become “offensive.”
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
After the article was published, King attempted to walk back his remarks.
King said in a statement that he is a “nationalist” who is defending “western civilization’s values,” but said he does not support “white nationalism and white supremacy.”
“I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define,” he wrote.