Friday we informed our readers that Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) is seriously considering a primary challenge for Congressman Steve King’s seat.
Both Sen. Feenstra and Congressman King have pretty conservative voting records, but there’s little doubt the biggest issue of the campaign will be border security and illegal immigration.
Congressman King has been a vocal supporter in defending the nation’s laws and borders. There is no shortage of material to find out where Congressman King stands on the issues.
We are unable to find any direct quotes from Sen. Feenstra regarding illegal immigration. Sen. Feenstra did support the bill to punish sanctuary cities and counties in the state of Iowa. He has also supported presidential candidates in the past like Tim Pawlenty, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz — none of which are big amnesty guys.
But the majority of Republicans who want to see King lose his seat do not share his hard-line position on illegal immigration. “Big ag” that relies on cheap labor (illegal immigrant labor) clearly desires new representation in Congress. They have for years.
The reality is if a primary challenger to King hopes to have any chance, they will have to share King’s position on illegal immigration to win in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District.
President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton with 61 percent of the vote in 2016. While King is considered a controversial figure, he certainly doesn’t have the personal history that President Trump has. And he hasn’t said quite as controversial things as Trump either.
In 2016, King beat his Democrat opponent with 61 percent of the vote as well.
Has King lost some support in the last two years? Yes. But he has almost 18 months to rebuild some bridges.
If someone successfully challenges King in a Republican primary, they will need some crossover support from Democrats. But, with a likely competitive U.S. Senate primary on the Democrat side, it’s unlikely enough Democrats will abandon that race for King’s.
There’s a definite percentage of Republicans who will support anybody but King in a primary — probably around 30-35 percent. But in the Fourth District, substance and policy matter.
Congressman King has kept winning because his District shares his policy positions.
King will not lose to a candidate who is weak on illegal immigration and border security. Whoever ends up challenging him will have to be able to match his record on these national security issues.
Since they likely won’t have much of a voting record on such national issues, they’ll have to attempt to match his record with their rhetoric. King has proven that sharing hard-line immigration policies through rhetoric is a difficult task to accomplish without alienating a certain bloc of Republican voters.
That’s the same bloc of Republican voters any King challenger needs in order to win. But pleasing them means abandoning a far larger percentage of Republican primary voters.
All of that makes for an exceptionally fine line to be walked in 2020.