Racist Comments Cost Steve King The Support Of His Party. Now His Primary Opponent Is Outraising Him.

July 16th 2019

White America ( Pat Bagley )

White America (Pat Bagley)

By Jessica Piper

Center For Responsive Politics

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), most recently known for being rebuked by his own party for racist comments earlier this year, is trailing his primary challenger when it comes to fundraising.

But it remains to be seen whether having a bigger bank account will be enough to knock off the incumbent Republican, who has held his northwest Iowa seat since 2002.

King raised just $91,000 during the second quarter of 2019, trailing primary challenger and Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra, who raised $140,000 during the same time period. It was the second straight quarter in which Feenstra outraised the incumbent Republican; the state senator brought in $260,000 during the first three months of 2019 to King’s $62,000.

The incumbent Republican’s campaign had just $18,000 in cash on hand as of June 30.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said earlier this year that it would not get involved in the primary for King’s seat.

King, who was removed from his committee assignments earlier this year after questioning why the phrase “white supremacist” was offensive, is running a campaign without establishment support, rare for an incumbent. He has been known throughout his tenure in Congress for his staunch anti-immigrant rhetoric and far-right views, though he mostly had Republicans’ backing until 2018.

The 2018 midterms were King’s closest congressional race of his career. The congressman edged out Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten by 3 points during the general election.

Earlier that year, King came under fire for mocking a Parkland shooting survivor, retweeting a self-identified Nazi sympathizer and endorsing white nationalist Faith Goldy for mayor of Toronto, among other incidents. Despite growing backlash, he easily fended off a primary challenge from Sioux City resident and community college executive Cyndi Hanson that year before facing Scholten in the general election.

The NRCC said shortly before the election that it would not support King, and his district’s largest newspaper, the Sioux City Journal, endorsed his opponent for the first time ever.

Scholten, meanwhile, received significant backing from national Democrats, raising a whopping $3.25 million compared to the incumbent Republican’s $877,000. But King still came out ahead on election night with 50.3 percent of the vote to Scholten’s 47 percent.

Iowa’s 4th District leans strongly Republican, with a Cook PVI of R+11. President Donald Trump won 60 percent of the vote there in 2016, while now-Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) won 53 percent of the vote in the district when he ran for president in 2012.

In addition to Feenstra, two other candidates are wading into the Republican primary, which will be held on June 2. Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor raised $10,000 in the second quarter, bringing him to $68,000 raised in 2019. Army veteran Bret Richards raised $5,000, bringing his total raised this year to nearly $23,000.

No Democratic candidates have filed to run for King’s seat in 2020, though Scholten said earlier this year that he is considering running again.

A competitive Senate race in Iowa in 2020 could also affect down-ballot races in the state.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who has condemned King’s comments in the past, also faces re-election next year. Ernst was one of the first members of her party to decry Trump’s weekend tweetstorm telling four Democratic lawmakers or color — three of whom were born in the United States — to go back to the countries from which they came, a move that might cost her support from the president down the stretch.

Ernst brought in $740,000 during the second quarter, ending June with $3.4 million in cash on hand. Her likely challenger, businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, got off to a strong fundraising start. Greenfield, who has earned the support of the Democratic establishment, raised more than $600,000between her candidacy announcement June 4 and the end of the month.

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