Democrat J.D. Scholten is taking his second swing at the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s 4th District, the most conservative area in the state.
The former professional baseball player announced he is running again to represent northwest Iowa in 2020 after narrowly losing the general election to incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King in 2018. The Kiron conservative won by 3.4%, the smallest margin he has faced in a general election in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 190,000 to 120,000.
This time, Scholten said he was hoping to improve on last year’s results. He’s already confident coming into his announcement with much higher national and local name recognition, as well as more attention on Iowa’s 4th District seat at large.
“It’s hard to comprehend how different this is,” he said in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “The amount of attention we’re receiving in just hours compared was months and months worth last time. But we’re still trying to get out with the same thing we did last time: prove that we’re trustworthy and prove that we’re going to fight for the people of this district.”
He launched his new campaign with a video narrated by Kevin Costner Monday morning, and with support from national Democratic groups like Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
He’s coming back with a lot of the same priorities as he had in 2018 — fixing health care, supporting farmers — but with a new goal of meeting even more new voters. He has a “70% goal” for 2020: making sure come Election Day, at least seven of every ten voters in the district have seen him or “Sioux City Sue,” his Winnebago RV with their own eyes.
“We saw the success we had last time,” he said. “We saw that we got 25,000 more voters than there are Democrats in this district. We’re looking to improve on that and it’s by going to all 39 counties, multiple times, and continuing to go where the people are at and listen.”
This week, he’s kicking off his campaign touring in his Winnebago, holding rallies in Sioux City and Ames, as well as visiting the Iowa State Fair Thursday and the Iowa Democratic Party Wing Ding Friday.
While King has been a controversial political figure for many years, tensions reached a boiling point after the Republican’s 2018 reelection. King was removed from his House committees by U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in January after he was quoted by the New York Times saying: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
The backlash from Republicans means Scholten is no longer the only challenger to the prominent Republican official. Prominent GOP challenger state Sen. Randy Feenstra significantly outraised King, and gained support from several national and state conservative figures.
“Two years ago, Congressman Steve King almost handed Iowa’s 4th Congressional District to Nancy Pelosi when liberal Democrat J.D. Scholten nearly won,” Feenstra said in a statement. “Today’s announcement that Scholten will again seek the seat further highlights the need for Iowa Republicans to nominate an effective conservative that will win in November.”
Scholten said even if King doesn’t win the primary, his campaign strategy and message is going to stay the same.
“My game plan is the same as when I was a pitcher in baseball,” he said. “It didn’t matter what the batter was, it didn’t matter who the opponent was, I was going to pitch my game. … My campaign is about who we are and what we can do for the district.”
That doesn’t mean getting King out of the representative seat isn’t a priority.
“He has a voice as a member of Congress that is far too controversial, far too loud — nobody should know who the 4th Congressional District representative is,” he joked. “I really think its time for a change in this district.”
King bashes fellow Americans online, can’t do much in Congress because of his committee removals and has turned off voters on both sides of the aisle, Scholten said, adding that the 4th District is ready for a change.
“American voters are sick of punching down,” he said. “That’s not what I learned in Sioux City, growing up here … That’s our message, no matter who the opponent will be.”
In February, King said he would run for reelection, saying he had nothing to apologize for. King’s campaign could not be reached for comment.
“Don’t let the elitists in this country, the power brokers in this country, tell you who’s going to represent you in the United States Congress,” he told voters in the district.
Robin Opsahl, Des Moines Register
Published 3:34 p.m. CT Aug. 5, 2019 | Updated 3:34 p.m. CT Aug. 5, 2019