A US congressman who said there was nothing controversial about ‘white supremacy’ has lost his bid for renomination, in an apparent backlash against racism in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
Moderate Republican voters rejected representative Steve King, who had served nine-terms for Iowa, in one of the biggest defeats of the 2020 primary season in any state.
In the five-way primary, King was defeated by Randy Feenstra, a state senator, who had the backing of mainstream state and national Republicans who had come to regard the veteran politician as an embarrassment and a potential threat to a safe Republican seat in November.
With a reputation for insulting undocumented migrants, endorsing a Toronto mayoral candidate with neo-Nazi ties and backing anti-Muslim campaigners in Europe, King was already regarded as one of US’s most divisive elected officials.
But he was deemed to have gone too far after an interview with The New York Times in 2019, in which he asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
The remarks caused an uproar, with Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, telling King “to find another line of work.”
King’s defeat came as protests continued to spread across the US against police brutality and years of continued economic discrimination following the death of Mr Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer now charged with murder.
Feenstra became the preferred candidate of establishment Republicans, raising $925,800 for his campaign compared to King’s $331,000. Five of King’s fellow Republican congressmen donated to Mr. Feenstra’s campaign.
Shortly before the primary vote, the head of the Republican House campaign, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, issued an unusual condemnation of King for his backing of Toronto mayoral candidate, Faith Goldy, who has supported white nationalism, and for comments in which King appeared to endorse the 'Great Replacement' far-right conspiracy theory.
Stivers said at the time: “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior."
After losing King said on Facebook that none of his opponents had complained about “a single statement that I have made” during his career, and that his defeat was the result of “an effort to push out the strongest voice for full-spectrum constitutional, Christian conservatism” in Congress.
King's defeat contrasted to the victory on the same night of Ella Jones, who became the first African-American and first woman elected mayor of Ferguson - nearly six years after the Missouri city erupted in protests after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a black teenager.
Jones, 65, promised to continue changes introduced after the shooting of Mr. Brown in 2014, including a federal consent decree, a legally binding agreement requiring reforms to a police department.
She also made it clear she supported peaceful protests after the killing of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, while also condemning the violence that has broken out in several cities.
Following her victory Jones said in a video posted online on Tuesday night by St Louis Public Radio: “I’ve got work to do — because when you’re an African-American woman, they require more of you than they require of my counterpart."
She added: “I know the people in Ferguson are ready to stabilize their community, and we’re going to work together to get it done.”