(June 29, 2020 / JNS) Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra defeated longtime Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on June 2 in the Republican primary in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
Leading up to the election, King had made numerous remarks perceived to be bigoted, including inflammatory rhetoric condoning white supremacists and anti-Semites. These remarks, as well as similar ones over the years, were widely denounced by the American Jewish community, including conservative Jewish groups.
Last year, King lost his committee assignments and was heavily criticized in a resolution passed in the U.S. House of Representatives that called him out by name after he asked how the term “white supremacist” was offensive.
Given King’s history, the Republican Jewish Coalition took the rare step and endorsed Feenstra against a sitting GOP incumbent.
In the lead up to the primary, Feenstra touted his conservative record and received key endorsements from social conservatives, pro-life groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He also has an “A” rating by the NRA. Feenstra, who proudly noted his involvement in passing anti-BDS legislation in the Iowa state legislature in 2016, is looking to get back to basics and to bring an effective conservative agenda, Iowa values and strong support for Israel, to Washington.
Feenstra, a member of the Iowa Senate since 2009, is a professor at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa. He will face Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten, who narrowly lost to King in 2018, in November.
Feenstra, 51, and his wife, Lynette, have four children.
JNS talked with Feenstra by phone on June 26. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: You successfully ran on Rep. King having been removed from his committee assignments and no longer able to represent Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. While you have criticized King’s bigotry, you’ve also been faulted for not making King’s comments a focus of your campaign. What’s your reaction to those critics?
A: My whole focus was that I want to be an effective Conservative proven leader, and that’s what I ran on. We need someone that can get results. We need someone that can be effective. When Rep. King lost his committee assignments, he could no longer be effective in the 4th District.
I’ll focus on my record. I’ve been in the Iowa Senate for the last 12 years. I wanted to show people my record of what I stood for, what I stand on. I helped pass the largest tax reduction in state history, along with many other things. I just wanted to show people, “Hey, this is what an effective conservative leader looks like. This is how you get things done.”
Q: In Iowa, you played a role in the state passing legislation in 2016 to combat BDS. How can Americans best fight the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism at home and abroad?
A: We were excited to pass legislation to combat the BDS movement. Florida Sen. [Marco] Rubio [and others] got it passed in the U.S. Senate.
We have to talk very openly about history and about what has occurred in the past. We can learn from the past how important it is on how we treat people. This includes what Israel has been through and our country, and that we respect freedom of speech and the rule of law. We want to promote the voices of people, and we do that by also extolling history and how history has not always done that.
Q: Do you support U.S. President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran?
A: Absolutely. We have to draw a line in the sand, and we have to do everything we can to stop them from proliferating weapons. It’s very scary. Israel, being a sovereign nation, we have to do everything in support of and protect Israel. Israel is our friend and our ally in keeping the Middle East stable.
Q: Is he doing enough to combat the Iranian threat?
A: President Trump has done a great job in being firm and saying that we’re not going to play Iran’s game. It was very good that Trump withdrew from the  Iran nuclear deal. You can’t capitulate every time someone wants something, and we have to stand firm. We have to do whatever it takes to protect Israel and America.
Q: You back the president’s Mideast peace plan, but at the same time “don’t believe that Israel has to give up ground.” However, the plan also calls for the creation of a Palestinian state. Do you support this?
A: I do believe that Israel doesn’t have to give up land. However, to get to a final deal and if Israel is in support of that deal, then I’m OK with that. To me, it’s got to be an agreement that Israel approves of, and if Israel does not support any type of deal, then I have a real problem with that.
Q: What’s your reaction to those, including Democrats like U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who say that if Israel were to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, it would undermine U.S. national security and upend bipartisan support for the Jewish state?
A: I disagree. I go back to what is best for Israel. Israel is a friend to America. When you have a friend, you treat them with respect and you treat them with dignity, and you do whatever you can to help them. The deal has to benefit Israel and that’s where I stand with the president. I was excited that he moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Q: You also agreed with him recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, among other Israel-related moves?
A: I support President Trump in his efforts.
Q: What’s your reaction to those, like J Street, that want U.S. assistance to Israel conditioned on Israel not annexing parts of the West Bank?
A: I don’t like those conditions.
Q: You’ve said that you’ve never been to Israel. Do you plan to visit the Jewish state once COVID restrictions ease?
A: Absolutely. I’d love to go. I’ve had family members that have gone. Going there is the No. 1 thing on my bucket list.
Q: What inspires your support for Israel?
A: My biblical background. I’m a very strong Christian, and my faith is the very foundation of all that I do. The Old and New Testament are very important to me.
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