Editor's note: The Journal today continues its countdown of the Top 10 Stories of 2020 in Siouxland, as chosen by Journal staff. The No. 1 story will be revealed on Sunday, and the Journal's annual Newsmaker of the Year will be named on Jan. 3.
HULL, Iowa -- There was a seismic change in the Iowa 4th Congressional District in 2020, as seemingly entrenched Rep. Steve King fell to fellow Republican Randy Feenstra in the June primary election. Feenstra, a state senator from Hull, then defeated Democrat J.D. Scholten in the November general election.
In both cases, Feenstra won handily, first in the primary with five Republicans on the ballot.
He beat King, who is ending 18 years in office, by nearly 10 points, as Feenstra got 36,797 votes, for 45.6 percent, while King had 28,977 votes for 35.9 percent. Three other candidates took the rest of the votes, with Jeremy Taylor, a Sioux City former legislator, coming in next at 7.8 percent.
Then, Feenstra got 62 percent against Scholten, who lost by just 3 points to King in 2018. Feenstra carried 38 of the district's 39 counties, collecting 236,852 votes to Scholten's 144,344.
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As a result, Feenstra will represent Iowa's most Republican district. The 4th District had been a reliable seat for Republicans until King in late 2018 faltered down the stretch of that election cycle, narrowly defeating Scholten. That outcome piqued the interest of Feenstra to jump into the next race right away in January 2019.
King had been a reliable voice for conservative causes such as a tough immigration policy, defending gun rights and cutting taxes. Feenstra sought to appeal to the fiscal conservative wing of the Republican Party, and some right-center business groups responded with financial support.
Feenstra considerably outraised King in campaign funds, money that resulted in a slew of campaign ads touting his tagline Feenstra Delivers, which sought to paint a difference between himself and King on results for constituents.
The unforeseen factor of the novel coronavirus pandemic prompted state election officials to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters. Several Iowa politicos said expanded ballot access helped attract 20,000 to 30,000 voters in the 4th District who rarely, if ever, voted in a Republican Party primary. Feenstra particularly appealed to those voters.
Additionally, while King was a full-throated critic of so-called Never Trumpers, President Donald Trump didn't reciprocate with support as King fought for his political life in the tightly contested Republican primary. Just four years earlier, King co-chaired Trump's presidential campaign in Iowa.
One day after his win, on Nov. 4 Feenstra shared on Twitter a photo of him taking a congratulations call from Trump. "Thanks to @realDonaldTrump for the phone call! We are going to run hard, win in November, and elect a congressman who delivers," Feenstra tweeted.
Over November and December, Feenstra joined other incoming freshmen members for training related to the task of being a representative. In the first week of January, he begins a two-year term, where he plans to "deliver for our families, farmers and Main Street."