From left: Bret Richards, Randy Feenstra, Steve King, and Jeremy Taylor

Iowa’s 4th Congressional District has a hotly contested Republican primary. Currently there are five candidates with four of those candidates: U.S. Rep. Steve King, State Senator Randy Feenstra, Woodbury County Supervisor and former State Rep. Jeremy Taylor, and Irwin businessman Bret Richards filing reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Who is leading the money race?

Feenstra leads the race, King has the least cash on hand.

Feenstra has raised the most thanks to large Republican donors in Iowa backing his campaign, as well as, the national attention he received when he challenged King.

King has the least amount of cash on hand – $18,366 and that is the smallest amount of cash he has ever had on hand at this point in an election cycle.

Here are the year to date amounts:

RaisedSpentCash on Hand

Here is a look at the 2nd Quarter numbers:


Feenstra’s fundraising slowed somewhat since he first announced, but he still topped King in Quarter 2 by almost $50,000. King has traditionally spent more than he takes in, but he has never been so low on cash before. Taylor and Richards’ fundraising is practically non-existent. In Taylor’s defense he was on a three week deployment in June to Romania with the Iowa Army National Guard which naturally would have an impact on his 2nd quarter fundraising.

King’s fundraising shows more grassroots support, less PAC money.

King logged more small donations ($200 or less) than Feenstra. He has also, thus far, received less money from political action committees (PACs). Richards is the primary funder of his campaign.


In terms of small donations, King has held more fundraising events and sends more online donation solicitations than the other candidates so that also makes an impact on the number of smaller donations.

King’s most prominent donor in 2019 is Don Lamberti, the founder of Casey’s General Stores. Feenstra has received donations from former State Senator Rick Bertrand, Bob and Lois Vermeer of Vermeer Manufacturing, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, Kyle and Shawn Krause of Kim & Go, and former U.S. Rep. Tom Tauke.

Almost 91 percent of Feenstra’s donations have been from in-state, with almost 56 percent coming from within the district. Over 65 percent of Taylor’s donations have come from within the state and almost 61 percent has come within the district. All of Richard’s in-state funding, 84.7 percent came from within the district. Only $20,500 of King’s donations included state data so Caffeinated Thoughts is unable to make an accurate comparison. In the past, the majority of his funding has come from within the state.

King’s fundraising has declined.

This is King’s tenth election cycle and the ninth he had fundraising to report at this point in the cycle. Only four other cycles have seen King raise less money at this point in the race, with the last two cycles being two of them.

Here are the numbers King has posted in July of the first year of each election cycle:

ContributionsSpendingCash on Hand

King’s fundraising is below average most election cycles.

King was below the average for Republican candidates’ fundraising (challengers and incumbents) and Republican incumbent average fundraising in every cycle but two – 2012 and 2014.

That said, he has always outraised his Democratic challenger by a significant margin, with three exceptions. In his last race against J.D. Scholten in 2018, he was outraised by over $2.4 million. Jim Mowrer outraised King by over $172,000 in 2014. King, in his largest fundraising cycle, edged out former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack just shy of $400,000 in 2012.

In most years there is not much outside money invested in his races as Iowa’s 4th Congressional District and Iowa’s 5th Congressional District (when it existed) were not competitive as you can see in the chart below with only two races – last year’s and his race against Vilsack – having a margin of victory less than 20 percent.

Here is his fundraising history:

ContributionsRep. Candidate Avg.Rep. Member Avg.Win Margin

King’s in a tough spot.

The Republican primary will determine who will represent the district in 2021, that is pretty much a given in a presidential election year with the voter registration make-up of the district. Democrats took their big swing with a known candidate, King’s controversial actions and remarks, and a hefty fundraising effort. They still lost by 10,000 votes.

In an ordinary election year without a heated primary King generally would not have much to worry about. The primary number to look at is his cash on hand. He has never been so low, and he generally spends more than he raises because he always had the cash to do it. Not this time unless he has a spectacular 3rd quarter.

It is still early; things can always change. Donors may again open their wallets. The overwhelming sense one gets, however, is that Republican donor class over the last two years are fatigued with King’s negative publicity.

Money is not the only thing needed for a race, but it is not unimportant. King is going to need money to keep paying staff and fund a get-out-the-vote effort. Feenstra will be able to pay for staff and hit the airwaves. In a general election, King can rely upon a large faction who will vote against the Democrat, but in the primary, he faces a well-funded candidate and a party that may be ready for a change. The last time he faced a contested primary like this was when he was first elected.

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