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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 nwestiowa.com, 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 trushing@nwestiowa.com  Aug 7, 2019