Though a few months remain in 2020, it’s safe to say that this will be a year we won’t soon forget. Problems that are often ignored have been placed directly under the spotlight, and Iowa has not been immune to the nationwide reckoning.
There are numerous issues plaguing rural Iowa. We are losing jobs, businesses are closing for good and many Iowans are losing their farms and their livelihoods. The lasting impact of COVID-19 on small towns that were already struggling will be catastrophic if we do not take immediate action.
Many of our issues are the result of leadership failures by our elected officials. For far too long, this district has not had the representation in Congress that we deserve. Iowa’s 4th District, along with much of the rest of the nation, celebrated Steve King’s defeat in the Republican primary. While his name may not be on the ballot this November, make no mistake: His dangerous ideals linger. The extremist agenda King pushed for 18 years hasn’t left our district. It simply found better branding in the form of state Sen. Randy Feenstra.
Feenstra has campaigned that he has and will continue to deliver for Iowa’s 4th District. What has he delivered during his tenure in the Iowa Senate? He’s delivered a short-sighted policy to remove health care access to thousands of women in rural Iowa, which led to an increase in abortions for the first time in a decade. That same policy resulted in a 74 percent increase in sexually transmitted infections in northwest Iowa communities.
He’s committed to bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community by introducing a bill to remove their right to marry every year he’s been in the legislature. He’s gutted public school funding, while advocating to increase taxpayer funding to private schools. He’s given unwavering support to his party over what’s in the best interest of rural communities by supporting a disastrous trade deal which led to 140% increase in bankruptcies for Iowa farmers. Feenstra has certainly delivered, but not for the hardworking Iowans who are the foundation of what makes our state special.
J.D. Scholten knows what makes rural Iowa great, but also recognizes where we must improve. He’s willing to reject his own party if it means doing what’s best for his district, and his selfless leadership and integrity is what we need during these times of uncertainty.
Scholten is dedicated to reforming the agricultural economy that forms the backbone of rural Iowa to benefit hardworking Iowans. He’s an outspoken critic of multinational conglomerates that wield far too much influence over price and production. Scholten will institute better antitrust laws to protect family farms and consumers, and he understands that blindly cutting taxes for the wealthy doesn’t create jobs in northwest Iowa. His tax reform plan would hold corporations accountable by enacting legislation to make Amazon, GM, and others pay their fair share. This reform will generate sufficient revenue to fund education and public safety initiatives without placing an additional burden on the middle class.
Underfunded public schools weaken our communities. If we continue ripping funds from public schools, we’ll continue to see increased rates of poverty, crime, and civil injustice. Scholten will ensure that every student has access to quality education beginning in preschool regardless of family income. He knows the uphill battle our educators face, and he will work to give them the resources they need to give our students a genuine chance at success.
This pandemic has made it clear that a health care system that only provides protection for some is a danger to all. Scholten is the only candidate committed to providing all Iowans access to quality and affordable healthcare that they need to survive. Rural hospitals are closing at an alarming rate. Scholten will empower rural hospitals by guaranteeing desperately needed funding to provide critical care to all Iowans, no matter where they live. This means ensuring our veterans get the mental health services they deserve, protecting women’s reproductive rights and providing in-school counseling to our students.
Voters in Iowa’s 4th District, we have an incredibly important decision to make this November. Party affiliations aside, I ask you to please examine each candidate on their own merit.
Feenstra’s platform perpetuates the same polices that have let rural Iowa lose jobs and have forced talented individuals to flee in search of a livable wage. It means continuing absentee leadership that has allowed household income for middle America to remain stagnant while the income inequality gap is the largest it’s been since the Great Depression. Feenstra is another politician following in King’s footsteps who doesn’t have the courage to debate his opponent and answer for his failed record.
Scholten will give this district a representative committed to improving quality of life in rural Iowa. A candidate who will hear from you and fight for your family. A man who will work with party leaders on both sides to enact real policy changes. A leader whose moral compass is rooted in his faith rather than the agenda of lobbyists telling him how to vote.
2020 has shown that at every level of government, from small town Iowa to Washington, D.C., we need competent leaders who are dedicated to the promises they made on the campaign trail. Lifting fellow Iowans out of poverty, ensuring schools have the resources they need to give every student a chance, and guaranteeing equality for all Americans are not partisan issues.
Failing schools, public health crises and families suffering across our state are the result of inaction by leaders, but the burden also falls back on us citizens to hold them accountable. We must elect leaders who will act in the interest of our communities. At a minimum, register and go vote, but in the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, “I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe … now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
Keegan Jones is a 2013 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High and currently works as a financial analyst and consultant.