Ames Tribune: Democrats take center stage in Boone Co. Democrats event

As they embark on two of the more contentious 2020 races in the state of Iowa, Democratic challenger for the 4th Congressional District seat J.D. Scholten and three Democratic candidates bidding for Sen. Joni Ernst’s Senate seat detailed their visions to a a group of roughly 80 Boone County Democrats at the Rob Woodard Dinner in Ogden on Saturday night.

While Scholten will have to wait to see who his opponent is after the June Republican primary, the three Democrats are seeking the nomination to run against Ernst: Des Moines real estate businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, Des Moines businessman Eddie Mauro and Indianola lawyer Kimberly Graham stated their cases on why they should secure the nomination at the June 2 primaries.

Scholten wants set focus on campaign, not opponents

With a campaign promise to “stand tall for all”, the 6-foot-6-inch Scholten’s goal in his second endeavor for the 4th Congressional District seat is a voter engagement of 70 percent.

“On election night, seven of the ten people there can say one of three things,” Scholten said. “One, that they had a conversation with me. Two, that they saw my RV with their own eyes. Three, they were invited to an event that was within a few miles of them.”

Scholten who announced on Aug. 3 that he would run again for the seat in 2020, plans to navigate his R.V. named “Sioux City Sue” through the 39 counties of the predominately rural district, and engaging with voters about healthcare, agriculture and getting corporate money out of politics.

If he reaches that goal, he believes that he can balance the estimated plus-11 Republican voter advantage in the 4th District to his favor.

“If I can do that, we can take this district that has 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, and the only way we can win is getting out to the people and talking to them on a one-on-one basis,” Scholten said.

In 2018, Scholten almost unseated incumbent Rep. Steve King, but a rematch with King isn’t a guarantee, as three Republicans are challenging King in next summer’s primary.

King’s challengers, Sen. Randy Feenstra, Jeremy Taylor and Bret Richards would need to beat him outright. If none of the four Republicans reaches the 35 percent threshold necessary to win the primary, the race will be decided at a nominating convention.

However, Scholten told the Tribune that his focus isn’t on the Republican incumbent or his three primary challengers, but instead is continuing to build on the momentum from his 2018 campaign.

“What we’re doing is, pitching to our strengths,” Scholten said. “I don’t care who the other team is, our town halls are not going to be centered around King but around what we stand for.”

Greenfield looks to use “scrap” against “squeal.”

A self-proclaimed “scrappy farm kid,” Theresa Greenfield expects a battle against incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst, if she wins the Democratic nomination on June 2. In her efforts to unseat Ernst, Greenfield said feels the senator has broken her promises to hold Washington D.C. accountable.

“You guys remember Sen. Ernst right? She said she would be different, and she’d be an independent voice for Iowans — and we know she’s been nothing like that,” Greenfield said. “She said she was going to make ’em squeal in Washington, and I’ll tell you that no one is squealing in Washington and the swamp is getting much wider and deeper, filled with her cronies and special interest groups.”

The Des Moines businesswoman said the fight for the Senate seat will be won or lost on healthcare, and its wide-ranging impact on Iowans.

“Everywhere I go, it is often the number one topic people bring up, and it costs too much,” Greenfield said. “Whether it’s the premiums, your deductibles, your out of pocket expenses, everybody, rural and urban, are struggling with healthcare.”

Greenfield said she also wants to increase rural accessibility to hospitals and medical facilities.

Additionally, Greenfield attributes her motivation for her Senate campaign to her opposition to Ernst’s openness to privatizing Social Security and healthcare, in what she calls an “assault on hard-working families.”

“Joni Ernst talks about privatizing Social Security, cutting Medicaid, and my promise to you is that I will work everyday to sustain Social Security,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield was a 2018 Democratic candidate for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House, but was disqualified because her campaign manager falsified voters’ signatures on the petition that put her on the ballot.

Graham looks to shift balance of power in Senate bid

With a background of defending Iowa’s indigent and disadvantaged in the legal arena, Kimberly Graham hopes to do the same if she receives the Democratic nomination for the Senate. In order to accomplish that goal, Graham argues the need for a “brand-new Congress.”

“My plan has two parts, and part one of my plan is repeal and replace Joni Ernst,” Graham said. “Part two is to become the best senator in Iowa that money can’t buy.”

Graham said she refuses to accept campaign money from PAC’s or corporate donors.

Her message centered around rural Iowans, and at the top of the list is the increase in farm bankruptcies affecting rural farmers.

According to the Iowa Farm Bureau, only four farms declared Chapter 12 bankruptcy in 2013. In 2017, the total number of Chapter 12 bankruptcies climbed to 18 — the highest total since 2001.

“Farming should not be a non-profit enterprise, but it is for far too many farmers,” Graham said. “They’re taking the hits on both inputs and outputs by conglomerates who are controlling the seed, the fertilizer, and the market prices.”

Mauro: Iowans deserve better

According to Senate candidate Eddie Mauro, there’s two things he knows about his fellow Iowans: they believe in hard work and fair play.

“When we’re looking around the state today, we are sensing that there’s something that is fundamentally going on that is unfair all around us,” said Mauro, who previously ventured on an unsuccessful congressional campaign in Iowa’s 3rd District in 2018. “You see when the cost of healthcare is soaring and our prescription drugs are so expensive … it feels unfair and we deserve better.”

Mauro said the feeling of unfairness is also prevalent in the state’s education, daycare and housing, — all areas he seeks to address if given the nomination. At the heart of it, Mauro feels, is Ernst who is on the wrong side of those issues.

“Didn’t we sent someone to (Washington D.C.) to keep an eye on all of this? Her name is Joni Ernst and she’s been on the wrong side of all of these issues,” Mauro said. “Joni Ernst served in the military and I honor and respect that. But being a U.S. Senator requires a different kind of service and a different kind of courage. The kind of courage to stand up to your party when they are wrong.”

On Monday, Mike Franken, a Sioux City Democrat and retired three-star admiral, became the fourth candidate to enter the primary race to unseat Ernst.

By Robbie Sequeira, Staff Writer
Posted Aug 26, 2019 at 12:01 AM

ABC News: Rep. Steve King a target for Democrats in 2020 after controversial ‘rape and incest’ comments

Republican Rep. Steve King’s history of incendiary comments about immigrants and association with white nationalists nearly cost him his seat in Congress last year, when former professional baseball player and Democratic candidate JD Scholten came within three percentage points of defeating him in the midterm elections.

Now, with King continuing to face controversy — this time over remarks about rape and incest — Scholten, with the help of a video narrated by “Field of Dreams” star Kevin Costner, has launched a second bid in the most Republican district in Iowa.

But he faces strong headwinds in a year when President Donald Trump will be at the top of the ticket.

Democrats flipped 40 GOP-held House seats in the 2018 midterms, casting out Republicans in primarily suburban districts around the country — including two in Iowa — to take control of the House.

Scholten came remarkably close to unseating King in a rural, agricultural district where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 60% to 33% in 2016.

“We moved the needle so much last cycle,” Scholten told ABC News last week on the sidelines of the Wing Ding Dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa, as the entire Democratic presidential field traveled to his district to woo voters. “We just felt like we ran out of time.”

“People want to get out there right away and just, they’re ready for change in the district,” he said.

King, an immigration hawk and one of the most conservative members of the House, has a history of courting controversy that has prompted backlash from Democrats and, more recently, members of his own party.

This week, the Des Moines Register reported that King, seeking to defend his opposition to rape and incest exceptions in an anti-abortion proposal, recently told a conservative group that humanity might not exist without “rape or incest.”

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” he said last week in a meeting with the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa.

“Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.”(MORE: Rep. Steve King removed from committee assignments after backlash to ‘white supremacy’ comments)

Scholten, in a statement, called King’s comment “entirely unacceptable,” while several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates called on him to resign from Congress, and urged their Twitter followers to contribute to Scholten’s campaign.

House Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., also condemned King’s remarks.

“We have a congressman who’s not even on the Agriculture Committee, he got stripped of all his committees, so it’s clear, people are frustrated,” Scholten told ABC News last week of King’s comments.

In January 2019, Republican leaders stripped King of his assignments on the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees following comments he made to the New York Times about white supremacy.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he told the paper in a recorded interview and later disputed.

Following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October of 2018, Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, then the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans’ campaign arm, condemned King, who had recently met with Austrian far-right nationalists on a trip to Europe supported a white nationalist candidate for mayor of Toronto.

It’s not clear that Scholten will face King in November of 2020. At least two Republicans – state Sen. Randy Feenstra and Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor – have announced primary challenges to King, and Feenstra has significantly outraised the congressman.

Both challengers have condemned King’s rhetoric, and warned voters that his nomination could cost the party the heavily Republican seat.

If no candidate reaches 35 percent in the primary next year, the GOP nomination will be selected by delegates at a district convention.

“Only Steve King could make a district that Trump won by over 25% remotely competitive. His racism, misogyny, and homophobia is too much even for some otherwise solid Republican voters,” Ian Russell, a Democratic strategist who recently served as the political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told ABC News.

“But it’s still a heavy lift for any Democrat, especially with Trump on the ballot – though Scholten will have plenty of resources.”

Support for Trump, who will be up for reelection and at the top of the ticket in 2020, remains strong among Republicans in the state, and in a district that has more than 70,000 registered Republicans than Democrats, according to the most recent data from the Iowa secretary of state’s office.

“It was out of reach in a Democratic wave year,” a Republican official involved in Iowa House races told ABC News about the district. “Republican turnout is going to be at its highest point with President Trump running for reelection.”

Without a competitive primary, Scholten is already canvassing his district with the general election in mind – distancing himself from the intraparty Democratic squabbling between progressives and moderates in the House and on the presidential campaign trail.

“People get caught up in national labels. We just believe in getting out there, whether Democrat, Republican or independent, we’re out there earning your votes,” he told ABC News.

As he ran for president in 2015, Trump repeatedly called King a “great guy,” but said “I don’t know anything about the situation” regarding King in February, after the congressman was stripped of his committee assignments.

“I read a statement that supposedly he made. I haven’t been briefed on it, but certainly it wasn’t a very good statement,” Trump told reporters on Thursday.

The congressman told constituents he has seen “no signal from Donald Trump that he’s anything other than supportive of me,” according to the Des Moines Register.

By BENJAMIN SIEGEL Aug 15, 2019, 7:22 PM ET

The Hill: Democrat launching second bid to unseat Steve King says first attempt shined ‘spotlight’ on rhetoric

Democrat J.D. Scholten said Friday that his previous attempt to oust Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) helped shine a spotlight on the GOP lawmaker’s rhetoric toward immigrants and people of color.

“With our race there was a spotlight shined on his controversy, his racism, the hatred, the rhetoric that he uses and we know that those types of words, they have consequences,” Scholten told Hill.TV in an interview. “People are starting to wake up for that and see the vulnerability with him having three primary opponents and I won’t have one.”

A campaign spokesman for King didn’t immediately respond to Hill.TV’s request for comment. 

Scholten this week launched his second bid against the nine-term lawmaker.

He told Hill.TV that many people, including residents of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District who are represented by King, are now starting to realize that words and inflammatory rhetoric have consequences following two mass shootings last weekend.

The suspected gunman in the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting that killed 22 people allegedly posted an anti-immigrant manifesto shortly before carrying out the attack at a busy Walmart near the U.S.-Mexico border.

King has a reputation for holding hardline views on immigration and has long been criticized for his ties to far-right groups.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Republican was stripped of his committee assignments for questioning how terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became “offensive” during an interview with The New York Times.

King later attempted to distance himself from the remarks, arguing that he doesn’t advocate for white nationalism or white supremacy and suggested that the Times misconstructed his comments.

King already has two GOP challengers and it’s unclear whether he will ultimately become the Republican nominee next year.

Scholten, who came within single digits of beating King in November, said he remains confident that he can ultimately win the primary race, even if King doesn’t become the Republican nominee.

“At the end of the day, we ran on what we’re standing for — and not just necessarily against Steve King and I think that’s one of the reasons how we moved the needle so much,” he said. “We just didn’t bash Steve King — it would be easy to do that.”

Tess Bonn

The American Prospect: How a Progressive Populist Plans to Win a Rural Republican District

J.D. Scholten is starting up the Winnebago again.

Last year, Scholten, a first-time candidate who played minor-league baseball before returning to Iowa’s ruby-red Fourth Congressional District, where he was born and raised, came within 10,430 votes of defeating white nationalist Steve King. Scholten, who traversed the sprawling district in an old RV nicknamed “Sioux City Sue” and visited each of the district’s 39 counties at least three times, broke through by arguing that King’s penchant for racism and controversy was totally disconnected from the issues his constituents care about most: health care, the farm economy, and corporate consolidation.

Now he’s back for a rematch, announcing his candidacy with a moody, evocative video voiced by Kevin Costner. “There’s a sense of unfinished business,” Scholten told me in an interview a few hours after he released the video. “Politics is a zero-sum game, but we are in this middle ground, where we did really well but didn’t quite win. We just ran out of time.”

With higher name recognition and a proven method to raise millions of dollars, Scholten is leading with the same message he delivered in 2018: Rural Iowans are being hammered by corporate greed and government neglect, and need someone to stand up for them. He represents a new breed of populists who target their ire at the real forces impoverishing rural communities—not immigrants or liberal values, but seed and livestock giants, factory farms, and concentrated banking interests.

“At the root of my running is what my grandmother said to me on her deathbed: ‘Come home and take care of the farm,’” Scholten says. “This is the second-largest agriculture district in the country, their backs are against the wall, and they’re not being represented right now. That gets me fired up.”

Scholten begins his 2020 rematch with lots of pre-existing support. Democracy for America and Representative Ro Khanna both announced endorsements within a day of his announcement. Khanna called Scholten “the future of rural America” in a message to supporters, adding that “working folks in Iowa and across the heartland deserve someone who will fight for them—not big corporations, and not xenophobes.”

In 2018, Scholten took on an eight-term conservative who had rarely been seriously tested. This time, he’s facing a governmental nonentity. After musing to The New York Times in January, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” King was stripped of all of his committee assignments by House Republican leaders. Life in the minority in the House already affords little power; the committee-less King now has no voice at all in policymaking matters. Says Scholten: “A good question to be asked is what does he actually do?”

King is also facing three Republican primary challengers: former Iowa House member Jeremy Taylor, veteran Bret Richards, and state Senator Randy Feenstra, who at one point appeared poised to consolidate establishment support. But while Feenstra has consistently outraised King this year, he hasn’t been burning up the fundraising trail, with a paltry $140,000 haul in the second quarter. The sense is that Feenstra isn’t the savior candidate the GOP establishment thought. And three challengers are in a way better for King than one: If they all take a share of the anti-King vote, he could prevail with far less than 50 percent of the vote.

Even if King loses the primary, Scholten’s track record in the district, and his message of taking on corporate power, could give him a fighting chance.

Scholten’s near-miss in the toughest district in Iowa sparked talk of him taking on Joni Ernst in a key U.S. Senate race Democrats need to take over the chamber. If any statewide candidate got the vote totals that Scholten was able to obtain in the Fourth District, they would win in a landslide. But ultimately, Scholten felt the pull of home. “My dad’s from the northwest corner, my mom’s from the northeast corner,” he says. “I was born in Ames and grew up in Sioux City, both ends of the district. I would have a difficult time watching King get re-elected in a cakewalk while trying to do something else.”

Why was Scholten able to have enough success in a red district that he feels he can go back and win it this time? I spent a few days with him in October 2018, and what set him apart was his relentless focus on the needs of the district’s residents. Driving himself around in Sioux City Sue and sleeping in Walmart parking lots, Scholten showed up where few Democratic politicians tread during election season. Just presenting himself as an antidote to the crazed liberal caricature portrayed on Fox News won Scholten a chance in these towns.

Talk of trade wars was raging even then, and this week’s announcement by China that it would suspend all agricultural purchases only deepens the cut to farmers’ incomes. But Scholten, whose one grandfather sold seeds while the other farmed a family plot in Lake Mills, understands that farmer woes long predate Trump. He leads with statistics noting that the average Iowa farmer is over 58 years old, and the average owner is a 72-year-old widow. Mergers among livestock producers and seed giants have raised costs and narrowed options for family farmers, while concentrated animal feeding operations have the scale to muscle them out. Even farm credit companies have merged, narrowing choices for the financing that every farmer needs.

These are issues that King never talks about, if he campaigns at all. “After the election, agricultural groups came to me and said, ‘We know where you’re at and we’ll get behind you,’” Scholten says. “I’m excited to create a movement with the farmers’ backing. Last time I earned their trust, but this time I want to earn their vote.”

Scholten also highlights the strains facing middle-class families in Iowa and across the country. He supports Medicare for All, though he thinks it may take a few steps to get there. He notes that every time he stops for gas at a Casey’s General Store, an Iowa fixture known for its coffee, donuts, and pizza, “there are donation boxes for someone raising money because they’re sick. We can’t even take care of our people,” he says.

This is not the standard poll-tested, squishy moderate campaign favored in red districts by the party establishment. Scholten talks about an economy that works for everyone, about cleaning out special interests in Washington, about a tax bill aimed at the one percent. His political heroes are former Senator Tom Harkin and former Representative Berkley Bedell, Iowa Democrats and prairie populists who won conservative areas across the state. I asked whether the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had been in touch. “I told them I’m going to run the way I want, and if they’re on board so be it,” Scholten replied. “If I ran a DCCC style of campaign we’d lose by 20 points.”

Taking on an almost cartoonish villain, someone burned into the minds of every national Democrat, enables Scholten to tap into a national fundraising network. The timing of his launch, coming right after the massacre of Hispanics by a white supremacist in El Paso, isn’t lost on Scholten either. “I get asked so much about King’s white nationalism,” he says. “His voice should not be that of a member of Congress.”

But Scholten’s campaign is intensely local. In a midterm election, he won 25,000 more votes in Iowa’s Fourth District than there are registered Democrats. This year, he believes there’s more room to run. “The conservative vote showed up [last year] at almost presidential levels,” Scholten says. By contrast, only about 35,000 out of 80,000 registered voters came out in Woodbury County, home of Sioux City, where turnout usually spikes in a presidential year. Scholten took Woodbury by nearly nine points.

“What I hope at the end of this campaign, if you talk to ten people in the district, that seven will say they met me, or saw my RV, or went to an event,” says Scholten. It’s an ambitious schedule, but Sioux City Sue is ready. And the man and his Winnebago could point a path for Democrats to gain a foothold in rural America, by speaking directly to people’s challenges and calling out those responsible.

AUGUST 7, 2019

N’West Iowa: J.D. Scholten again challenging Steve King

REGIONAL—J.D. Scholten came too close to give up now.

After months of speculation, the Sioux City man officially confirmed Monday he would run on the 2020 Democratic ticket to represent Iowa’s 4th Congressional District and again challenge U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron).

With the Dickinson County Democrats’ Summer Sizzler in Spirit Lake taking place today (Wednesday, Aug. 7) and the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding Friday in Clear Lake, Scholten noted the time was right to announce.

“We’ve been planning this launch for a little bit and it’s gone really well,” he said.

Although he lost to King in November’s general election, Scholten gave the nine-term incumbent the closest race of his career.

“After the election, we saw how much we moved the needle, which was 24 points after the presidential race of 2016 to our race, which was the third-most in the nation amongst all challengers,” Scholten said.

A big part of his previous campaign was holding town halls and events in all 39 counties in the 4th Congressional District, a philosophy Scholten will again embrace.

“You saw what getting out there to all 39 counties (did),” he said. “It really created a movement — it really did. Right after the election, we did a thank-you tour just because there were so many people who gave it their all — our volunteers — and the overwhelming message was ‘Don’t give up.’”

Those words inspired Scholten, who spent plenty of time in “Sioux City Sue” — his campaign’s recreational vehicle — driving across Iowa’s largest congressional district and sleeping in Walmart parking lots during the race.

“I’m not the type of person who usually runs; being a working-class candidate, it’s a grind and the system is not meant for people like myself,” Scholten said.

No longer a political newcomer or outsider, Scholten called it a night and a day difference in announcing this time around.

“The last time we launched, we barely got any press. Now today, we got a bunch of folks calling in nonstop,” Scholten said.

As part of his announcement, Scholten released a 90-second campaign video narrated by actor/director Kevin Costner.

Being an Iowa native and former minor league baseball player, Scholten has watched “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams” quite a bit, so he was honored Costner was willing to be part of his campaign.

“It’s kind of a dream come true,” Scholten said. “Our video last time was kind of, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and he saw that and felt that this was the right fit for him. I appreciate him stepping out and doing a political ad for us.”

Just like the last race, Scholten says he plans to focus on issues.

One of his big passions is agriculture and a reason he wants to run is to help farmers. Before she died, Scholten’s grandmother asked him to take care of the family farm.

“You look around — especially up in your neck of the woods — farmers have their back against the wall and it’s whether you are a corn grower, a pork producer, just anything, it’s hard to make a profit in farming now,” he said.

“You see of the consumer dollar, less than 15 cents makes it back to the farmer, which is lowest all-time. We need to find markets and protect our farmers from agriculture monopolies and it’s one of those things where even (U.S. Sen.) Chuck Grassley talks about it, but Steve King never does.”

Although King is the incumbent, he does have three challengers in the GOP primary: Randy Feenstra of Hull, Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City and Bruce Richards of Irwin.

Scholten is ready to face any of them.

“Our message is about getting out there to the people and going to all 39 counties and talking about us and what we can do rather than just bashing the other side,” he said.

“So much of politics now — modern politics — it drives me insane. I’m not here to bash Republicans or anybody who disagrees with me. I’m here to have a debate and talk about earning votes.”

Reaction to Scholten entering race drew immediate rebuke from the Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff King as well as from the GOP candidates already in the race.

“The people of the fourth district have already rejected Scholten’s out-of-touch agenda once,” King said. “Now he’s running with 2020 Democrats who embrace socialist policies like the Green New Deal and government-run health care, which would require historic tax hikes that would bankrupt farms and businesses in the fourth district. Given Scholten’s failure and lack of new ideas, perhaps he should look into other jobs besides running for office.”

Feenstra tweeted an article about Scholten’s announcement and said the district “must nominate an effective conservative leader that will WIN in November.” Taylor called Scholten out of touch with Iowans because of ability “to enlist his Hollywood allies to speak for him.”

However, Scholten also garnered some endorsements. Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, who also made it a point to campaign in Republican strongholds during his 2018 campaign, came out in support of his fellow Democrat.

In his endorsement, first shared with The N’West Iowa REVIEW and, Sand explained why he supported Scholten.

“J.D. is a friend, a man of faith, and a man whom the 4th district can trust. I was encouraged in 2018 to see so many Republicans put the public ahead of their party by supporting J.D. and me and believe enough more will be willing to do so in ’20,” he said.

“I think it’s about time we get a 4th district representative on the agriculture committee and bring some Iowa values to DC.”

Ty Rushing  Aug 7, 2019

The Ames Tribune: Scholten returns to campaign trail for second run in Iowa’s 4th

J.D. Scholten said he decided to run again in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District because he feels as if he has “unfinished business.”

The Sioux City Democrat who was born in Ames announced his candidacy on Monday and began hitting the campaign trail immediately. On Tuesday he sat down with the Ames Tribune ahead of an evening rally at Mother’s Pub in Ames.

Scholten said part of his decision to run was the result of looking back at his 2018 campaign, which ended with a 3.3 percentage point loss to Republican incumbent Steve King.

“I committed 16 months of my life to running a campaign and doing something that had never been done before, and we were rewarded with moving the needle 24 points,” Scholten said. “What was really interesting is, politics is a zero sum game, but we’re in this weird middle ground where we lost, but we did so much and changed the narrative of this district that there’s been this cloud over us for a long time. Ultimately, we built something and there’s unfinished business.”

He said the infrastructure from his 2018 race is intact, and “we’re starting where we left off and what I’ve seen the past two days has been remarkable.”


He talked about what he believes is King’s increased vulnerability following the controversies surrounding the congressman’s statements about white supremacy and nationalism in an interview with the New York Times, and the subsequent stripping of his committee assignments by House leadership.

“We have to call out racism where it’s at, we need to call out hatred where it’s at, it’s becoming too common place in America right now,” he said.

Scholten said the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and others that have happened before them, only strengthens his revolve to do what’s needed to help reduce the risk of similar tragedies in the future.

“There’s this narrative that it’s either the Second Amendment or gun safety, but there’s a lot of ground where we can work here,” he said. “When 97 percent of Americans want universal background checks, but when 97 percent of Americans want something and Congress doesn’t do it, that’s a failure of our democracy.”

Scholten said he would fight to get rid of special interests that control national policy, and that influence is why universal background checks haven’t been implemented.

“We need to clean up Washington, and it goes with all the corruption … that’s where the root of the problem is,” Scholten said.

Scholten also reiterated his positions on revitalizing rural communities, a Medicare for all healthcare policy, and fixing the nation’s immigration system.

On revitalizing rural Iowa, Scholten said more needs to be done to draw good jobs that pay $50,000 to $60,000 a year to rural Iowa. He cited a drop in the number of graduates from Iowa State University in high-tech fields staying in Iowa.

“We need a lot more of that, we need it in Sioux City, we need it in Fort Dodge, we need it in Mason City, that is where the future of the Iowa economy is, it’s in technology and agriculture technology,” he said.

With Iowa’s 4th District being the second most agriculture producing district in the country, the tariffs that have been imposed as part of the trade war with China not only are having a negative impact on Iowa producers, but those costs will be passed on the consumer, too, Scholten said.

“We need a leader in D.C. that’s fighting for this district and fighting for the farmers, and you see the vulnerability of King with having a primary,” he said.

Three Republicans, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, former Irwin Mayor Bret Richards and former state Rep. Jeremy Taylor have all announced they will challenge King in a primary next year.

On immigration reform, Scholten said the country’s immigration system needs to be fixed if the state’s economy is expected to grow.

“We need immigration reform because we need the workers,” Scholten said.

Scholten said one of top issues he hears from voters in the 4th District is finding workers to fill vacant positions, and that commonsense reform is needed to streamline the path toward citizenship.

“The system is just broke,” Scholten said. “We haven’t had comprehensive immigration reform since 1986, a lot has changed since then, we can modernize a lot of things … we just need to find a way to come together, and there is an avenue to get things done now.”

Despite everything, healthcare remains the No. 1 issue for voters, Scholten said.

He said too many people remain uninsured or under-insured, and too many people continue to struggle to pay their medical bills. Scholten said there are too many collection cans set out at convenience stores to help raise money for families who are struggling, and too many GoFundMe accounts set up to help people pay medical bills.

“I think our goal is Medicare for all, but I think it’s going to take steps to get there,” Scholten said.

But he acknowledged that he’s open to other options.

“I’m also to the point where .. whatever works, as long as we have a system that gets rid of those donation boxes, I’m almost 99 percent sure I’d vote for it.”

By Michael Crumb, Editor
Posted Aug 6, 2019 at 4:53 PM
Updated Aug 6, 2019 at 10:17 PM

Iowa State Daily: Scholten seeks to keep, grow base of support at Iowa State

J.D. Scholten’s second bid for a seat in Congress follows a close loss to Rep. Steve King, R-Storm Lake, in 2018.

Nearly 19% of the votes Scholten received in the 2018 election came from Story County, where there are tens of thousands of students at Iowa State. From the 2014 midterm elections, there was a 10% increase in the number of 18-29 year olds who turned out to vote, up to 31%— the highest level youth voter turnout has been in decades.

In a phone interview, Scholten said he hopes he can keep the enthusiasm among young voters high.

“I mean that’s absolutely part of our goal, and I think having a cycle … of experience in us, I think we want to take some of the lessons we learned, and … not only keep the base, but expand the base at Iowa State,” Scholten said.

On the cost of attending Iowa State, the candidate said he doesn’t think “a college like Iowa State should cost more than what you can make at a summer job.”

“We need to make Iowa State affordable for everyone so everybody can have the opportunity to gain the education that they desire,” Scholten said.

Scholten ran the closest race of any Democrat who has ever run against King for Congress, improving on Christie Vilsack’s 8% loss to him in 2012.

Despite coming within 4% of defeating King in the midterm elections, however, Scholten faces an uphill battle to win Iowa’s 4th Congressional District this time around.

Mack Shelley, Iowa State professor and chair of the political science department, said “there is a pretty good chance [King] will not survive the primary, given the fundraising … particularly by [Sen.] Randy Feenstra.”

Shelley added he believes Feenstra would have a better chance of holding the district for Republicans than King, though Democrats “are quite likely to infuse top dollars” as the seat presents a “potential pickup opportunity.”

Feenstra issued a statement after Scholten entered the race, saying King nearly “handed” the district to Scholten in the 2018 race, adding Republican primary voters need to nominate “an effective conservative that will win in November,” and calling himself “an effective conservative that will win in November.”

Scholten said he believes he can win the race regardless of who his opponent is.

“I’m going at this race just like I did when I was a minor league baseball pitcher, and it didn’t matter who the opponent was, I was going to pitch my game and pitch to my strengths,” Scholten said. “[W]e did a town hall in all 39 counties [in the district] last time — if anybody showed up to it — you would know we didn’t really talk much about Steve King, we [talked about] what we’re for.”

With Iowa’s status as the first state to vote in the Democratic primary calendar, the race has received attention from several Democratic presidential candidates since Scholten’s entry.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., tweeted Scholten “has already proven he can bring people together.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., tweeted “Today especially, I’m reminded just how important it is we elect people the highest moral character to represent us — people like [Scholten].”

Scholten said he is very grateful his message has been amplified on social media by 2020 candidates, but “at the end of the day it’s about us getting in Sioux City Sue and driving all over the district and earning votes regardless of whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent.”

By Jake Webster,, @jakedavewebster
Aug 6, 2019

Omaha World-Herald: Democrat J.D. Scholten is taking a second run at unseating Iowa Rep. Steve King

WASHINGTON — Former Husker baseball pitcher J.D. Scholten plans to make another run at unseating Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

Scholten, a Democrat, said in a campaign statement that too many Iowa families feel like they are suffering and the government doesn’t have their interests at heart.

He cited the need to address health care and economic equality.

“We need a system that works for all people — not just special interests and those who are lucky enough to be at the top,” he said.

Scholten also released a launch video heavy on shots of fields and livestock, with narration by actor Kevin Costner.

Scholten fell just a few percentage points short in his 2018 bid against King — the closest a Democrat has come to winning a congressional race in northwest Iowa in a long time.

King’s hard-line rhetoric, particularly on matters related to Western civilization and illegal immigration, has long created headaches for the Republican Party.

He was formally rebuked by the House earlier this year — and lost his committee assignments — due to statements about white supremacy he made to the New York Times.

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann notably made no mention of King in his own statement responding to Scholten’s launch.

Scholten sought in his previous campaign to avoid getting tied up in national politics, but it’s clear that Republicans will try again to tie him to left-leaning elements of the Democratic Party.

In his statement, Kaufmann invoked national Democrats and their talk about a “Green New Deal,” government health care and tax increases.

It’s not clear who Scholten could be facing next year given that King already has attracted multiple primary challengers.

Federal Election Commission records show that three of those challengers actually finished the most recent reporting period with more cash on hand than King.

As of June 30, the incumbent’s campaign coffers had just $18,366 cash on hand while the best-funded GOP challenger, State Sen. Randy Feenstra, reported having $337,314 cash on hand.

Feenstra touted his fundraising advantage and high-profile endorsements in a campaign statement on Monday. Feenstra said Scholten’s candidacy underscores the need to nominate him rather than King.

“The families of Iowa’s 4th District deserve an effective conservative leader who can win and ensure our voice and our values are represented in Congress,” Feenstra said in the statement.

By Joseph Morton / World-Herald Bureau  Aug 6, 2019

TheAmes Tribune: Scholten announces he’s running again in Iowa’s 4th

Nearly nine months to the day since J.D. Scholten narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Congressman Steve King in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, Scholten announced Monday he was throwing his hat into the ring again in an effort to oust the nine-term congressman.

Scholten defeated two other Democrats in a June 2018 primary to earn the party’s nomination to challenge King in the November mid-term election. He lost that race by just over 3 percentage points. After saying he was reviewing his options and his path forward, Scholten made it clear on Monday that path would take him into a another race against King. So far, he’s the only Democrat to announce a bid for the party’s nomination in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, which covers 39 counties, all which Scholten covered while traveling in his brightly colored, red, white and blue RV he called Sioux City Sue.

“We’re building a people-powered campaign that is focused on meeting with, listening to, and earning the trust and support of voters in all 39 counties in Iowa’s 4th district,” Scholten said in an early morning announcement of his candidacy. “This time, we’re going to get the job done.”

He said in the announcement that, too many Iowa families “feel like they’re getting kicked in the dirt, suffering from an economy and a government that just doesn’t have their interests at heart.

“We need a system that works for all people — not just special interests and those who are lucky enough to be at the top,” Scholten said. “That’s exactly why we’re in this fight: to fix our healthcare system, fight for an economy for all, and secure our democracy. The 4th district deserves a voice in Washington that understands these issues and will fight day in and day out to revitalize our rural communities.”

His announcement was accompanied by a video narrated by actor Kevin Costner. That was followed by a rally in his hometown of Sioux City Monday night. He plans to travel throughout the district, including a stopped scheduled for 9 p.m. Tuesday night at Mother’s Pub, 2900 West St., in Ames.

The Ames Tribune has an interview scheduled with Scholten, who was born in Ames, ahead of that event.

King, who has come under fire for his anti-immigrant rhetoric is facing a primary challenge from three Republicans; state Sen. Randy Feenstra, former state Rep. Jeremy Taylor, and former Irwin Mayor Brent Richards.

King was criticized after last fall’s election by state and national GOP leaders for comments he made about white supremacy and nationalism in an interview with the New York Times. He was later stripped of his congressional committee assignments.

Scholten received an early endorsement Monday from the political action committee, Democracy for America.

“In this race, Iowans have the opportunity to replace one of the most racist and divisive members of Congress with a leader who will fight for an economy that puts the interests of farmers and working families ahead of Wall Street, healthcare that puts people before profits, and an immigration system rooted in justice and compassion,” said Yvette Simpson, the group’s CEO in an emailed statement.

By Tribune staff
Posted Aug 5, 2019 at 5:16 PM
Updated Aug 5, 2019 at 8:34 PM

The New York Times: J.D. Scholten Almost Beat Steve King in 2018. Now He’s Running Again.

J. D. Scholten, a Democrat who nearly toppled Representative Steve King of Iowa in a heavily Republican district in 2018, announced on Monday that he would run again for the seat in 2020. His decision sets up a possible rematch with Mr. King, whose history of racist remarks has made him a pariah among Republican leaders, though not always with voters.

“Last time, we were hoping to win,” Mr. Scholten said in an interview before the announcement. “Now, we are expecting to win. We know how to do it.”

Mr. King was stripped of his congressional committee assignments this year by House Republicans, after he questioned why white nationalism was offensive. He later said he had nothing to apologize for and would run in 2020 for a 10th term in his deeply conservative district in northwest Iowa.

If he survives a primary challenge next year, Mr. King will appear on the same ballot as President Trump, whose nativism and anti-immigrant remarks Mr. King long foreshadowed. In Mr. King’s Fourth District, which Mr. Trump won by nearly 30 points, voters in the past have either agreed with or overlooked Mr. King’s divisive language about Latino migrants, who sustain much of the agricultural economy there.

“Having Steve King have a voice in Congress, I think that’s at the root of why I feel it’s so important to get him out of office,” Mr. Scholten said.

Mr. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player and a fifth-generation Iowan, said he would once again crisscross the 39 counties of the largely rural district in an R.V., overnighting in Walmart parking lots, while engaging with voters about health care, agriculture and getting corporate money out of politics.

Mr. Scholten, 39, weighed running against Senator Joni Ernst, a potentially vulnerable Republican, but learned in June that national Democrats, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, were backing a different challenger, Theresa Greenfield.

“Ultimately, I would have a tough time abandoning what we were able to accomplish and watch Steve King get re-elected if I were to run in that race,” Mr. Scholten said over the weekend. “And, I mean, the Fourth District is where my heart’s at.”

Iowa will be in the political spotlight next year, not just for its presidential caucuses in February, but also because it will feature competitive races up and down the ballot in November, for the Senate and all four of its congressional seats.

To win re-election, Mr. King must first defeat three primary challengers, most prominently Randy Feenstra, a state senator who has outraised him with the support of the Republican establishment. Mr. King brought in just $91,000 in the quarter ending in June, compared with Mr. Feenstra’s $140,000.

Money, however, has never mattered much in Mr. King’s re-elections. He has nearly universal name recognition in his district, and, until recently, voters broadly embraced his pugnacious personality and positions on bedrock conservative issues like abortion and gun rights.

Mr. Scholten, who outspent Mr. King nearly four to one in 2018, came within three percentage points of unseating him after the congressman endorsed a candidate for Toronto mayor with neo-Nazi ties and, in an interview with an Austrian publication that surfaced late in the race, seemed to endorse the “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy theory espoused by white supremacists.

In January, in an interview with The New York Times, Mr. King said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

House Republican leaders removed him from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees, while Mr. King defended himself by saying his remarks had been taken out of context.

More recently, in town-hall-style events with constituents, he has claimed he did not utter the words as quoted.

Many Democratic politicians issued fresh condemnations of white nationalism over the weekend after at least 29 people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, and some placed a portion of the blame on Mr. Trump’s remarks. The authorities said they were investigating the El Paso shooting as a possible hate crime.

“Words have consequences,” Mr. Scholten said when asked about the shootings. “The hatred and racism that has become too commonplace in our country does fuel violence.”

Despite his yearslong history of racist remarks, Mr. King was rebuked by Republican leaders only recently. Senator Ernst denounced Mr. King this year, but she has campaigned with him in the past, eager for the support of his voters in the state’s most conservative region.

Should Mr. Feenstra or one of the other primary challengers emerge as the nominee, Republicans would quite likely have an easier time against Mr. Scholten without Mr. King’s baggage.

If Mr. King wins the nomination, Mr. Scholten would have to win the votes of many Republicans and unaffiliated voters to defeat the congressman in a district where active registered Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats. Mr. Scholten lost to Mr. King by about 10,000 votes last year, out of 313,000 cast.

“We got 24,000 more votes last time than there are Democrats in the district,” Mr. Scholten said. “I have to do even better than that this time.”

Strategists for both parties in Iowa said they would still consider Mr. King the favorite if he became the nominee.

“Republicans in the Fourth District have not yet indicated they’ve had enough” of Mr. King, said Kurt Meyer, a Democratic county chairman in the First District. “If a Democratic candidate for president runs strong in Iowa, there’s maybe a one-in-three chance we take him out.”