Ames – Bonnie Brown realized her passion for social activism 13 years ago while she was a freshman in high school.
Brown, a University of Iowa alumnae, maintained her passion through her collegiate studies.
She recently returned to Iowa from Charlottesville, Virginia, where she took part in a counter-protest to a large gathering titled “Unite the Right,” a violent event that took place two weeks ago in the city.
She recalled sitting in a Charlottesville church where hundreds of members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations stood out outside and shouted, “white power,” “blood in the soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
“It was traumatic,” Brown said. “We could not leave the church because it was too dangerous.”
Brown was one of six individuals who spoke in support of 4th District congressional candidate J.D. Scholten during a launch party Friday night at the Gateway Hotel in Ames.
It was Scholten’s second trip to Ames after announcing his campaign in late July.
Scholten, a fifth-generation Iowan, is a paralegal turned politician with no previous experience in holding office. He was born in Ames and raised in Sioux City. He pursued a professional baseball career after graduating from the University of Nebraska. His career led him to play in the minor leagues in seven countries — including four seasons with the Sioux City Explorers.
Scholten said that he has spent the last month traveling the district and “meeting a lot of amazing people along the way.”
“I think I’ve hit 30 of the 39 counties (of the district) so far,” Scholten said. “It’s been typical of what you would get in Iowa. I’m always running into people who know my parents, grandparents or cousins. There’s always someone new coming out to support me.”
Scholten took the stage as the headliner of the event. His speech centered on three goals that he will pursue should he become elected:
— Health care: Scholten said that he would push for a health-care system that offers a public option to stabilize current markets with the goal of eventually achieving Medicare for all.
— Economic opportunity: Scholten supports a “new rural economy” centered on advanced manufacturing and tech jobs.
— Infrastructure: Scholten would invest in a long-term infrastructure program that would emphasize rural access to broadband internet, quality farm-to-market roads and an updated water system.
“I aim to put Iowa values back at the center of public service,” Scholten said. “Our Iowa values will define my campaign. Together, we can make the seemingly impossible happen in every corner of every county in this district.”
Around 90 supporters, Democratic loyalists and curious voters-to-be gathered in a conference room at the Gateway as the 6-foor-6-inch Scholten walked around and greeted those already seated.
Brown was one of the last speakers to take the stage that overlooked 10 round tables where attendees sat and listened.
She continued her vivid account with details of colleagues and University of Virginia students and professors being attacked during the protest.
She ended up only a block away from the site where Heather Heyer was killed when a vehicle was driven through a crowd of protesters on Aug. 12.
“The events that transpired did not pop out of nowhere,” Brown said. “Events like these have slowly been increasing. (Hate groups) They have been emboldened by (President) Trump’s hateful rhetoric. We start by voting out so-called leaders that refuse to condemn hatred. We can start by voting out Steve king and voting for J.D. Scholten.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Norris took the stage just before Scholten.
Corporate tech giant Apple announced Thursday that it would be opening a $1.3 billion data center in Waukee. The state of Iowa and local government will be giving Apple about $208 million in government incentives. Norris was critical of Reynolds’ administration for the tax break.
“If you look at the the corporate tax cuts and hand outs (the state) has done in the past four years, you will see that they’ve bankrupted the ability to fund so many things,” Norris said. “Their greed is colliding. They’re more worried about the social welfare of corporations at the expense of our future.”
Norris dubbed King as a “poster child” for “hatred and division” in America. He also said that King is driving an agenda that favors the coal and gas industries that is against “the people of the district.”
“Anyone who wants to take on Steve King is a friend of mine,” Norris said.