Friday, January 11, 2019

Feenstra (and more?) vs. King

Well, the inimitable Steve King has finally put his foot in his mouth one too many times, and now he has a serious primary challenge coming up from state senator Randy Feenstra.

This isn't a token challenge like Cyndi Hanson ran last year, or even a half-serious effort like Rick Bertrand tried in 2016. As you can tell from the state and even national Republicans poling on, this is the real thing.

And it's the correct strategy. You can't win a GOP primary running as a moderate, and Feenstra, who represents the number one Republican district in the state senate (the Orange Free State of Sioux County)  is as conservative as they get.  He'll get the moderate's votes anyway, just for being Not Steve King.

If elected, Feenstra will have exactly the same voting record, with none of the embarrassment. He's Steve King without  the Geert Wilders retweets - and without the weakness of running 10%  behind the ticket in a general election.

That weakness is King's real crime in the eyes of Republican leaders. This challenge is not happening because it's the right thing to do. It's happening because of Democrat J.D. Scholten's near miss last year proved that King has become an under-performing liability to the rest of the party.

The GOP is worried that in a presidential year, King could actually lose the seat, and losing one vote in the US House for two years (because a Democrat would certainly lose next cycle to a non-King R) is a higher price then they are willing to pay. Without King IA04 is rock solid Safe R.

So Democrats  need to be careful what we wish for in the primary. If we want to hold the seat on a fluke for two years, cross our fingers, and see what happens in 2022 redistricting, the best scenario is a narrow King primary win. Or, better yet - a primary where King wins with under 50% because of multiple opponents (the technical term is "Clown Car Effect").

But if we just want to exchange King for an equally conservative but less offensive Republican, that may be worth crossing over. (Personally I'm opposed to crossing over in primaries, for any reason, but I seem to be one of the few any more.)

Democratic voters considering a crossover also need to think about a possible US Senate primary. If there's an interesting race developing, voters will have to choose between Beat King Now and Who Can Beat Ernst Later.

The Senate primary may also look suddenly attractive to Scholten or another northwest Iowa Democrat. If you get into the 4th District race, and King loses the primary, you just lost 10 points off your general election tally and the race is over. You also lose all the out of district and out of state money you can raise with the concise fundraising pitch "I'm running against Steve King."

This discounts the possibility of strategic voting, Democrats crossing over to stick Republicans with the weaker candidate, King. (The technical term is "ratfucking.") Very  few voters think or vote like that. They cross over to sincerely vote  for (or against) someone.

If there's a big crossover in Story County of students and professors eager to dump King, his team will get a heads up and have time to react- because of the primary being at the spring semester/summer session break, a lot of folks will have to vote early.

Closer to home for Feenstra, his state senate seat is on the presidential cycle, so it's up or out. That means an open seat primary for that job on his home turf, and the turnout spike helps him. When this seat was up in 2004, it saw general election level turnout in the Republican primary, because in Sioux County the primary is the de facto general election. Kind of like my county only opposite and more so.

But four years later, when Dave Mulder retired, Feenstra walked into the seat unopposed, and in three terms he has never had a primary OR general election opponent. In fact, he may not even have had an opponent when he was Sioux County treasurer before that. So he's somewhat untested as a candidate. You know who else was a county treasurer in that same era - a certain governor.

Feenstra briefly considered a run for state treasurer in 2009 but didn't; instead the GOP ran one Dave Jamison, who was both a county treasurer and a close "ally" of Kim Reynolds, but has had, well, a few problems of late...

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