Steve King

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks with The Journal editorial board on Oct. 10, 2018.

HULL, Iowa -- State Sen. Randy Feenstra will attempt to upset the dynamics of Republican politics in Iowa, as he is readying a primary campaign to veteran Rep. Steve King in 2020.

Feenstra, of Hull, said he is opening a federal campaign committee. A campaign website -- feenstraforcongress -- went live Wednesday morning. Feenstra also opened a Twitter campaign account, reworking the prior account he had used as a state senator.

"What we've seen this past week from the new Democratic majority in Congress is appalling," Feenstra said in a statement. "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. The President needs effective conservative leaders in Congress who will not only support his agenda, but actually get things done."

In the statement, Feenstra said he will open a federal campaign committee for the seat to be settled in November 2020.

By 2 p.m., King's campaign responded by saying Feenstra in late December had told Jeff King, the congressman's son and campaign official, that he would not run for the position.

Jeff King summarized that Feenstra told him, "I love your dad and I would never run against him," but now, the state senator changed course, via "misguided political opportunism, (and) fueled by establishment puppeteers."

Jeff King said the congressman is "an effective and leading congressional ally of the president's...It appears that Mr. Feenstra offers Republican voters nothing but warmed over talking points from liberal blogs and failed Democratic candidates.”

Feenstra, who turns 50 in mid-January, was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008, and his third term in the chamber runs through 2020, meaning he would have to give up his state Senate seat to run for Congress.

King narrowly defeated Democrat J.D. Scholten in November, his closest race since he first ran for Congress in 2003. The outspoken Republican came under fire in the closing days of the campaign for his support for far right politicians and parties with ties to white supremacy.

King, who lives in Kiron, handily won eight terms in years when the Northwest Iowa congressional districts had 50,000 to 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. 

The 4th District covers 39 counties in Northwest and North Central Iowa.

State Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said he was "surprised" Feenstra is running for the Iowa 4th seat.

“It is unnecessary. Congressman King reflects the district very well. I am fully behind him,” Schultz said.

In a conference call Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he rarely gets involved in primaries, and won't in this case.

“So any Iowan in office today, where I say I’m not getting involved in the primary, they shouldn’t take it personal.”

Professor Bradley Best of Buena Vista University said King's slim victory to a large extent can be explained by the overall national mood and the quality of the campaign Sholten ran.

"Even with a lengthy record of controversial statements and negative appraisals from Republicans in Washington...I’m hesitant to code any of this as making Representative King vulnerable to a 2020 challenge from inside his own party," Best said.

King has withstood Republican challengers who lived in Sioux City in the last two election cycles. Those primary party wins were over state Sen. Rick Bertrand in 2016, and college administrator Cyndi Hanson in 2018.

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