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The Intercept: Iowa Progressive Emerges as Serious Challenger to Eight-Term Congressional Republican Steve King

THE INTERCEPT – Iowa Republican Steve King is a notorious bigot who has comfortably served in Congress since 2003, but a surprising challenger in the historically Republican district is proving he may have what it takes to unseat King in November.

Former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten is a progressive who is one of four Democrats who have tossed their hats in the ring of Iowa’s 4th District. He witnessed a surge in fundraising at the end of last year, bringing in $174,344 to King’s $87,544 in the fourth quarter. (King has raised the most money overall, with $244,725 to Scholten’s $214,487, but last quarter’s results show the tide may be turning.)

Progressive insurgents have entered congressional races in district after district amid an expected Democratic wave in the midterm elections, and as the primary races heat up, the looming question is whether they can defeat their more centrist opponents, who have the backing of the Democratic Party. (As The Intercept reported last week, a handful of progressives are out-raising their establishment opponents.) In Iowa, each of the Democrats is a first-time candidate, and the more central question is whether a district that has belonged to Republicans for decades can possibly turn from red to blue.

“We’re grateful for the amount of support this campaign has received,” Scholten said. “At first, our focus was to get out on the road to engage with as many people as possible. At the time, people liked us simply because I wasn’t Steve King. Now we’re seeing the shift to people responding to our message of inclusiveness.”

Scholten’s platform includes backing a $15 minimum wage, moving toward a single-payer health care system, and comprehensive immigration reform. He’s landed the support of Krystal Ball, founder of the People’s House Project, a group that supports progressive candidates. (The People’s House Project has not officially endorsed Scholten.)

View image on TwitterScholten was born in Iowa, but he was living in Seattle last year when Trump was elected president. He said he was inspired by the Seattle Women’s March to get more involved in the political process. “I just got so moved by the passion and raw energy that happened — I had a moment of clarity,” he said. Around the same time, his grandmother died in Iowa. After attending the funeral, he felt compelled to move home and get involved.

His immigration platform is diametrically opposite to where King stands on the issue. King has demanded surveillance of American mosques and cozied up to extreme nativist politicians like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Just two months ago, he condemned the concept of diversity altogether, adding to his long history of demonizing immigrants and promoting a homogenous culture.

In an interview with The Intercept, Scholten portrayed King’s views on immigration as not just out of touch with the northwestern Iowa district’s values, but also in conflict with its economic needs.

“In this district, we have so many rural communities that are just using immigrant labor as a backbone for their economy,” he said, “and to have him just spout these things it’s just, obviously on the moral side I’m against it, but on the just practical side, it goes drastically against the district.”

King defeated his Democratic opponent by 22.6 percentage points in 2016, a fact that is not lost on Scholten. Still, the former baseball player is encouraged by Democratic performance in Iowa’s special elections over the last year. “We’ve had five special elections at the state level since the presidential election, and the average of all of those are plus 29 toward Democrats,” he said.

Scholten’s strategy for taking back the district is to lean hard into pocketbook issues.

“Is there going to be a wave? Probably. But we’re not counting on it. I’m not out there being complacent and just expecting things to happen. I’m out there going into some of the typical areas that Democrats don’t get out to,” he said. “A huge problem of Democrats here is that there’s not a Midwest Democrat … who has kind of shown that we’re a different type of Democrat. [We want to] focus on the working class and at the end of the day, letting them know that I’m fighting for their job, I’m fighting for their paycheck and retirement, I’m fighting for their health care, and I’m fighting for their kids’ education.”

full article: https://theintercept.com/2018/02/06/steve-king-iowa-4th-congressional-district/