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Feenstra Runs On Conservative Record To Keep Iowa's 4th District In Republican Control

Republican State Sen. Randy Feenstra is running to represent Iowa's 4th Congressional District.
Courtesy of Feenstra For Congress Facebook page
Republican State Sen. Randy Feenstra is running to represent Iowa's 4th Congressional District.

The Republican who knocked out longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King in the June primary wants to go to Washington to be a voice for the 4th Congressional District. State Sen. Randy Feenstra is hoping to keep his party’s strong grip on the seat by running on his record in the Legislature.

Back in June, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, was surrounded by his family as the results came in for the 4th District Republican primary. He livestreamed his victory speech to supporters.

“I said from Day One that Iowans deserve a proven effective conservative leader that will deliver results and I have done that in the Iowa Senate, being in the Iowa Legislature for the last 12 years,” Feenstra said. “And I promise you, I will deliver results in Congress.”

The three-term state senator and Dordt University business professor beat nine-term incumbent Congressman Steve King by nearly 10 points. Roll Call and the Cook Political Report moved the race to "solid Republican." And those ratings haven’t changed since. But Feenstra has been on the campaign trail every day.

“Quite often, I don't come home until 12:30 at night, traveling Highway 20 and Highway 18, going to Charles City, going to Clear Lake and Mason City, or Ames or wherever it might be,” Feenstra said.

The 4th Congressional District spans 39 counties in northwest and north-central Iowa. Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats here and that appears to give Feenstra an edge in the race.

“I think in many ways, state Sen. Feenstra has what many of us would call kind of a textbook race,” said Valerie Hennings, a political science professor at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Hennings said the 4th District has shown strong support for past Republican candidates for president and the U.S. House of Representatives, so Feenstra has a lot to his advantage coming off of his primary win.

“That once he was able to win that, now he gets to consolidate his base and typical voters within this district that will lead him to hopefully a success in November,” Hennings said.

Hennings said Feenstra has a record, so people know what he’ll stand for in office. During his last term in the Iowa Senate when Republicans became the majority, Feenstra chaired the committee that handles taxes. He helped negotiate major tax cuts and other changes to the tax code in 2018.

“If people look at my record about cutting taxes, balancing the budget, fiscal controls, fiscal constraint, making sure we don’t spend more than we take in, these are all vital to good government,” Feenstra said. “And they help family businesses, they help families, they help the agricultural community.”

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, chairs the senate Ways and Means committee. 3/26/2020
John Pemble
IPR file
Feenstra chaired the Iowa State Senate Ways and Means committee.

The 4th District is one of the leading agricultural producing districts in the country. Last year, King lost his committee assignments, including a seat on the House Agriculture Committee. He had questioned in a New York Times interview when the terms white nationalist and white supremacist became offensive. Feenstra said his top priority if elected is to get that House Agriculture Committee seat back for the district and get farmers a seat at the table in Washington, a voice in creating the next farm bill.

“And making sure that we have a good crop insurance plan, that we are working to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard, to expand it to include E-15, where instead of having E-10, that most states would go to an E-15 process without having to change infrastructure at each gas station,” Feenstra said.

When Feenstra jumped in the race last year, he quickly impressed some Republicans who were longtime supporters of King, like Steve DeRocher. He’s a farmer and a teacher from Le Mars. DeRocher said King’s close race last cycle made him worried that the seat was slipping away from Republican control. So he put his belief in Feenstra.

“I knew early that he was my guy because the first time I was around and listening to him, I was looking for somebody,” DeRocher said. “And boy, he fit the bill.”

DeRocher said he likes that Feenstra lowered his taxes and he’s anti-abortion. He said he thinks Feenstra will back farmers, but not at the expense of other people.

“I think Randy is going to do a great job, not only in the ag. field, but what really first drew me to him was he seemed like somewhat of a wizard with finances,” DeRocher said.

Feenstra was the city administrator of Hull for seven years. Hull Mayor Arlan Moss spoke highly of him.

“He’s very passionate and very sincere. What he says he’s going to do, he strives to do it,” Moss said. “Yet, he can compromise. I value that too.”

Feenstra is facing King’s 2018 Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten. And recent polling has shown that the race has tightened a bit. Scholten gained a lot of appeal beyond his party last cycle. But Feenstra beat Congressman King by saying the district needs an effective conservative leader. And now that he’s on the ballot, he’s hoping the people of the district will send him to Washington.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.