State Sen. Randy Feenstra won the Republican nomination for U.S. House District 4 on Tuesday, upending incumbent Congressman Steve King.
Feenstra received 36,806 votes (45.68 percent) while King had 28,977 votes (35.97 percent).
Jeremy Taylor finished third with 6,295 votes, Bret Richards was fourth with 5,983 and Steve Reeder picked up 2,507 votes.
In all, there were 80,568 votes. In 2016, when King was challenged by former State Sen. Rick Bertrand, there were 46,993 votes.
That’s an incredible increase and can easily be attributed to the decision to send out absentee ballot requests to all eligible voters in Iowa.
A closer look at the numbers shows that King received 29,098 votes in 2016. That’s only 121 more votes than he received last night.
To be fair, King lost a significant amount of support from Sioux County, Feenstra’s home turf. King received 3,434 votes in Sioux County in 2016 and just 1,290 in 2020.
Poll workers in Sioux County also said there was an unusually high number of people crossing over into the Republican Party to vote on Tuesday, often asking how soon they could re-register as Democrats.
There were two ways of thinking about that. One was it would hurt King greatly. Feenstra posed a legitimate threat to King, who has long been a target of Fourth District Democrats. And, in reality, this was their shot to beat King. J.D. Scholten wasn’t going to beat King.
The other, and I hadn’t considered it until last weekend when someone threw it out there to me, is that King could benefit because Democrats might vote for him in hopes to face him in November. It’s possible, but unlikely.
It would be interesting to know how the 14,785 voters who picked Taylor, Richards or Reeder would have voted in a two-man race.
All along I figured Feenstra would have the inside track with the help of the GOP establishment when it comes to the absentee voting game. But I did not anticipate 80,000 voters.
COVID-19 certainly played a role. It made money even more important, and Feenstra was the only candidate with money. Clearly money was king on this night.
What’s fascinating is, in all of my conversations with county chairs across the district, I do not recall one who supported Feenstra in the primary.
While there were plenty of debates and forums, few people saw them. And by the time they saw them, many had already voted.
One thing was clear to everyone leading up to election day, the larger the turnout, the worse it would be for King.
Feenstra’s campaign ran a good race and his voting record is almost perfect on many of the key issues. They did everything by the book.
The race was unpredictable because of the unprecedented actions taken to put on the primary. For instance, in our poll that showed King with a double-digit lead in late May, voters from 2016 and 2018 primaries were polled. But with 34,000 new voters, their voices were drowned out relatively quickly. And let’s face it, if you weren’t voting for King in 2016 and 2018, you definitely weren’t in 2020.
Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann extended his congratulations to Feenstra.
“Feenstra is a strong, conservative leader with a history of getting things done for his district,” Kaufmann said. “On the other hand, his Democrat opponent J.D. Scholten supports a socialist agenda that includes the radical $93 trillion Green New Deal and government-run health care, and he has raked in twice as much in contributions from California liberals than from folks here in Iowa. It’s clear he doesn’t have Iowans’ best interests at heart.”
RPI co-chair Cody Hoefert thanked King for his years of service.