All posts by Lou McDonald

Explore Okoboji: 4th District Congressional Candidate J.D. Scholten Visits Clay County Fair

A Democrat running for Iowa’s 4th District Congressional seat made an appearance Sunday at the Clay County Fair. J.D. Scholten told KUOO news he feels his campaign has renewed momentum this time around in his race against incumbent Steve King… PlayStop  

“I mean it’s night and day compared to two years ago, I’ll say that. And it’s a little bizaar in the sense that I don’t have a primary challenger but the incumbent has a primary and so there’s not too many places or races in America right now where that’s the case and so we’re a little bit unique in that situation.”

Scholten also commented on the declining farm economy and the impact of the tariffs and trade dispute with China… PlayStop 

We’ve got 55,000 farmers with their backs against the wall in this district and we need to give an opportunity for them to make a buck. We’ve had five consecutive years of low commodity prices. We’ve had this trade war is just really squeezing a lot of different folks and we need to hold China accountable, absolutely, but at the same time we can’t go at this alone. We need to have our allies come on board with us and have some leverage, but as a result you’re seeing South America burning the Amazon in order to allow to create soybeans. I was here at the fair last year when the soybean association had their forum and they talked about we’re close to, we’re a few years away from having five billion bushels of soybeans. That’s a huge amount, an enormous amount. And yet it’s in the bin right now. It’s not getting sold in markets so we’ve got to find solutions to that and we need trade policies, we need a lot of different policies that help farmers out and not just the multi-national corporations. That’s I think is a huge difference between the current congressman and myself.” 

When it comes to agriculture policies, Scholten said he shares a lot of the same views as Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.

Sun 9-8-2019

KAAL TV: Technology Forum Address Rural Iowa Issues

J.D. Scholten held a rural technology forum with Silicon Valley Representative Ro Khanna, Saturday in Mason City.

“The idea that a farmer is just on his tractor is so outdated. Farmers actually are the most sophisticated about technology,” Khanna said.

“In this district, we need that 60, 70, 80,000 dollar jobs. Those are the jobs that are going to be game-changers and technology is at the forefront of a lot of those jobs,” said Scholten.

Plans were discussed for expanding broadband access, bridging the rural-urban divide and rural revitalization in Iowa through the creation of good, high-paying technology jobs and hubs.

“We discussed what are we going to do to make sure people stay here. J.D. mentioned that one of unfortunately Iowa’s biggest exports has been their children. Kids shouldn’t have to leave to get good opportunities. We need to bring those job opportunities here,” said Khanna.

“Iowa State graduated in 2017, 1400 students that could go into technology, a year later, 2018, only 258 were still working in Iowa, which is 18%. So as much as we export in corn, soybeans, hogs, wind energy, we export our children and we need to have a better return in investment,” Scholten said.

Scholten also mentioned that on occasion Iowa State University has a difficult time recruiting athletes because of the controversy surround Congressman Steve King. He also says that the economic board struggles to bring in jobs to the fourth district because of the conduct of King.

September 07, 2019 11:54 PM

NWestIowa: Democrats make case in Orange City

Three Democratic candidates seeking to represent Iowa in Washington, D.C., made the case for progressive politics on Aug. 26 in Orange City.

U.S. House of Representatives candidate J.D. Scholten and U.S. Senate candidates Kimberly Graham and Michael Franken spoke to a crowd of about 150 people at a candidate forum in the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center at Northwestern College.

Scholten, who narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Rep. Steve King in 2018, spoke of how his previous campaign was able to win over supporters by meeting them face to face.

“If you get out to the people, and you prove that you’re trustworthy and prove that you’re going to fight for the people, your district, you’re going to earn votes. And that’s what we did,” Scholten said.

“We got 25,000 more votes than there are Democrats in the 4th District,” he added.

For the 2020 election, he said his campaign will be similar to that of 2018 in terms of its policy agenda.

“It’s fix, fight and secure. We got to fix health care. We got to fight for an economy that works for all of us. And we need to secure our nation and our democracy,” he said.

Scholten called it unacceptable that in the world’s wealthiest country, people should have to turn to crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe to pay medical bills.

He also criticized national media and political pundits for only speaking of the economy in terms of the stock market and the unemployment rate instead of wage stagnation.

Scholten closed by saying his goal is for all 4th District voters to be able to say one of three things on election night: They had either met him, seen his tour vehicle called “Sioux City Sue” or seen that his campaign had made a stop near where they live.

Graham and Franken, who will face off in a U.S. Senate primary that includes Eddie Mauro and Theresa Greenfield so far, also made a case for their candidacies.

A lawyer from Indianola, Graham explained she has worked 20 years advocating for vulnerable children in juvenile court.

“Those skills are eminently transferable to the United States Senate because, if I’m not in Washington standing up and fighting for you, then I have no reason to be here, in my opinion,” Graham said.

One of her main goals as senator would be to support campaign finance reform and limit the influence of money in politics. She ultimately hopes to create publicly funded elections to level the playing field for prospective candidates. Graham also hopes to address inequality in public school funding and the rising cost of health-care treatment as senator.

Franken took to the stage after Graham to roll out his campaign, which officially launched earlier that day. After playing his campaign’s announcement video for the audience, the retired U.S. Navy admiral spoke of his roots in Sioux County, having grown up near Sioux Center the youngest of nine kids.

He said he is running for U.S. Senate in the hopes of working across the political aisle on issues such as health care, climate change and foreign policy.

“Stop the unneeded wars of this country. Trim the defense budget where it needs to get trimmed. Work on quality of life, education, the panoply of things we can do,” Franken said.

The candidate forum was co-hosted by the Northwestern Campus Democrats, along with Democratic groups from Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Plymouth and Sioux County

Co-chair of the Campus Democrats Noah Karmann, a junior from Columbus, NE, said he was pleased with the turnout for the forum, noting about 20 Northwestern students attended.

Senior Erica Wasson was at the forum with her husband, Eric, who graduated from Northwestern in May. She said she appreciated the candidates’ willingness to reach voters of all political backgrounds.

“That’s something I’m really passionate about because I know so many people that are independents and Republicans and Democrats, and I don’t want like their label to define who they are, you know, make them seem like someone that can’t be talked to.”

Randy Paulson rpaulson@nwestiowa.com Sep 3, 2019

The Messenger: Scholten works to ‘move the needle’ in race against King Democrat addresses crowd at FD Labor Day picnic

.D. Scholten, Democratic candidate for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, stopped by the Western Iowa Labor Federation’s Labor Day picnic at Oleson Park on Sunday afternoon.

The candidate announced his second campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, last month.

“Tomorrow it’ll have been a month and it still feels brand new,” Scholten said. “But there’s still a level of excitement. It’s good to see events like this. There’s more and more people coming and we’ve got the RV working, so we’re excited.”

Scholten mounted his first campaign against King in the 2018 election cycle. The Sioux City Democrat fell short of unseating King by 3.8 percentage points, the narrowest margin of victory for King since his eight-point win in 2012.

The biggest challenge for the Scholten campaign this time around is going to be “filling in the holes”they missed the last time.

We moved the needle 24 points, but we fell three short,” he said. “So we got to find ways to get that last 10,000 votes and get the 4 percent in order to win. And the biggest thing is making sure that we continue to just stay on the road and talk to people and not write anybody off — Republicans, Independents, Democrats. We’re going to go out there and earn votes, and that’s going to be the ultimate challenge, but we’re up to it.”

In light of the Labor Day holiday, Scholten said the message behind the holiday is much of what his campaign is about.

“It’s about valuing work and valuing the people who do the jobs,” he said. “So much of our policies that we see out in D.C. do not favor us, do not favor the working class.”

KELBY WINGERT kwingert@messengernews.net SEP 2, 2019

Sioux City Journal: At Labor Day picnic, J.D. Scholten says campaign ‘night and day’ to early in 2018 run

J.D. Scholten spent the early portion of his time at Monday’s Sioux City Labor Day Picnic in the serving line, asking people if they wanted Cheetos, Lays or Ruffles potato chips with their lunch.

But when it was his turn to address the crowd, he served up red-meat issues for the pro-Democratic crowd.

If voters were to elect him to Congress to represent Iowa’s 4th District, he pledged to fix health care, limit the influence of special interests in government and work to ensure that all Americans, especially the working class, can enjoy economic success.

“Ultimately in our economy, we have to solve this question: How does the working class have a place in globalization? They say the economy is doing well, but for whom?” the Sioux City Democrat said.

[Read more on Sioux City’s Labor Day picnic: Menu features both burgers and politics.]

The last of six politicians who spoke at the picnic, Scholten drew the loudest applause when introduced. Unknown two years ago when he launched a long-shot campaign against Republican Steve King, Scholten drew national attention by coming within 3 points of unseating King in a district in which Republicans hold a hefty advantage in voter registration totals.

Scholten is again taking aim at King, who must first defeat three challengers in a primary election to win a spot on the 2020 ballot and run for a 10th term. Scholten thus far is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and he’s no longer a stranger when walking into an event such as Monday’s picnic.

“Where our campaign started now compared to two years ago is night and day,” he said.

Many of the issues remain unchanged, however.

Scholten said he favors some type of universal health care, but for now would be happy with a system in which Medicare was available to anyone who wants it. In his travels throughout the 4th District, he’s seen too many people relying on donations to pay for costly medical treatments.

“We’ve got to fix health care. There are far too many pancake feeds … far too many donation boxes in gas stations paying for our health care,” he said.

Scholten also is pushing for economic policies that will help workers rather than the corporations that employ them.


“Way too many policies are dictating to corporations and the 1%. Working-class people are being left behind. People are at a disadvantage. Corporations are getting tax write-offs.”

Joe Sestak, the lone Democratic presidential candidate to appear at the picnic, also spoke in support of organized labor and working-class people.

“I look at unions, they stand for working families, and they’re the last organized force that stands for working families,” the retired Navy admiral and former Pennsylvania congressman said.

Sestak said he’s running as someone who will unify Americans rather than divide them. Drawing upon his Navy background, he told the audience that the young sailors on board an aircraft carrier can count on one another to do their jobs, even standing in front of idling jets to prevent them from mistakenly being launched.

“No one believes anyone in Washington, D.C., will stand in front of that plane for them. I want to,” Sestak said. “This nation cannot meet the defining challenges of its time unless it’s united. That’s why I’m running.”

NICK HYTREK nhytrek@siouxcityjournal.com
Sep 2, 2019

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 rsequeira@amestrib.com
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
8/9/2019

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.

DAVID DAYEN
AUGUST 7, 2019