Rep. Steve King’s defeat in Iowa’s Republican primary received bipartisan cheers, but Democrats may end up wishing he had won.
Iowa political experts say the victor, Randy Feenstra, presents a tougher challenge for Democrats looking to flip state’s 4th Congressional District than did Mr. King, whose comments about white supremacy and immigration made him an outcast among Republicans in Congress.
The upstart state legislator, who triumphed over the nine-term congressman in Tuesday’s primary for the western Iowa seat, won praise from President Trump.
“Congratulations to Randy Feenstra on your big win in the Iowa Republican Primary,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “You will be a great Congressman!”
Actress and #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano similarly cheered the news of Mr. King’s demise on Twitter.
“Steve King lost the Iowa GOP primary,” Ms. Milano tweeted. “That’s what we do. We vote racists out of office.”
But Iowa experts on both sides of the aisle say liberals will have a tougher time winning in November against Mr. Feenstra than against Mr. King. Mr. Feenstra’s Democratic opponent is J.D. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player.
“Republicans stand a better chance at holding the seat now that Feenstra won,” said Craig Robinson, Iowa Republican strategist, in an email. “King’s inability to finance and run a competent campaign had become just as big of a drag from Iowa Republicans than the problems he generated with his mouth. Democrats wanted to face King in the fall. Feenstra will be a much more difficult candidate for them to face, and their King playbook now does the Democrats no [good].”
Pete D’Alessandro, a Democratic strategist, sounded a similar note.
“It’s actually tougher to run against the non-incumbent [Mr. Feenstra] in this particular race,” Mr. D’Alessandro told an ABC affiliate in Iowa on Tuesday.
Mr. Scholten took credit for Mr. King’s loss on Tuesday.
“Steve King set a low bar. And it was our campaign that defeated him,” Mr. Scholten tweeted. “Not-Steve King isn’t good enough. We need leadership and vision and not another corporate-backed career politician.”
Mr. Feenstra’s big Republican backers helped him defeat Mr. King and could prove critical in the run-up to the November election. Defending Main Street, a GOP super PAC connected to the center-right Republican Main Street Partnership, spent $100,000 to help defeat Mr. King and hosted Mr. Feenstra at its “suburban candidate school” in January.
“King has been an unviable and ineffective representative for over a year now,” said Sarah Chamberlain, Defending Main Street treasurer, in a statement. “Our party cannot afford to keep members of Congress whose rhetoric is so unrepresentative of the governing Republican tradition. Both Iowa and the Republican Party will benefit from a return to the strong, focused conservatism Randy Feenstra has to offer.”
Mr. King’s office did not respond to request for comment but he reportedly called Mr. Feenstra to concede the race on Tuesday night. Mr. Feenstra was up by 9 points, according to The Des Moines Register, but final tallies are not in.
Mr. Feenstra said on a Facebook broadcast Tuesday evening that he was looking forward to the next steps in his campaign and he promised to deliver results from Congress for Iowans.