Bonnie Brown realized her passion for social activism 13 years ago while she was a freshman in high school.
Brown, a University of Iowa alumnae, maintained her passion through her collegiate studies.
She recently returned to Iowa from Charlottesville, Virginia, where she took part in a counter-protest to a large gathering titled “Unite the Right,” a violent event that took place two weeks ago in the city.
She recalled sitting in a Charlottesville church where hundreds of members of the Ku Klux Klan stood out outside and shouted, “white power,” “blood in the soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
“It was traumatic,” Brown said. “We could not leave the church because it was too dangerous.”
Brown was one of six individuals who spoke in support of fourth district congressional candidate JD Scholten during a launch party Friday night at the Gateway Hotel in Ames.
It was Scholten’s second trip to Ames after announcing his campaign in late July.
“The event is signifying our progression to the next level,” Scholten said before the event. “We are really starting to create our own campaign and come into our own.”
Scholten, a fifth generation Iowan, is a paralegal turned politician with no previous experience in holding office. He was born in Ames and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. He pursued a professional baseball career after graduating from the University of Nebraska. His career lead him to play in seven countries – including 4 seasons with the Sioux City Explorers.
Scholten said that he has spent the last month traveling the fourth district and “meeting a lot of amazing people along the way.”
“I think I’ve hit 30 of the 39 counties [of the district] so far,” Scholten said. “It’s been typical of what you would get in Iowa. I’m always running into people who know my parents, grandparents or cousins. There’s always someone new coming out to support me.”
Scholten took the stage as the headliner of the event. His speech centered around three goals that he will pursue should he become elected:
– Healthcare: Scholten said that he would push for a healthcare system that offers a public option to stabilize current markets with the goal of eventually achieving medicare for all.
– Economic Opportunity: Scholten would build a “new rural economy” centered around advanced manufacturing and tech jobs.
– Infrastructure: Scholten would invest in a long term infrastructure program that would emphasize rural access to broadband internet, quality farm-to-market roads and an updated water system.
“I aim to put Iowa values back at the center of public service,” Scholten said. “Our Iowa values will define my campaign. Together, we can make the seemingly impossible happen in every corner of every county in this district.”
To learn more about Scholten’s background and what he brings to the table in the congressional race of 2018, click here.
Around 90 supporters, Democratic loyalists and curious voters-to-be gathered in a conference room at the Gateway as the 6’6” Scholten walked around and greeted those already seated.
Brown was one of the last speakers to take the stage that overlooked ten round tables where attendees sat and listened.
She continued her vivid account with details of colleagues and University of Virginia students and professors being attacked during the protest.
She ended up only a block away from the site where Heather Heyer was killed when a vehicle was driven through a crowd of protesters on Aug. 12.
“The events that transpired did not pop out of nowhere,” Brown said. “Events like these have slowly been increasing. [Hate groups] They have been embolden by [President] Trump’s hateful rhetoric. We start by voting out so-called leaders that refuse to condemn hatred. We can start by voting out Steve king and voting for JD Scholten.”
State Senate candidate Tracey Freese was the speaker of the night. She is running against Senator Bill Dix for the Senate seat. After slamming King and Dix for “investing in corporate interests” and “living in the past,” Freese said that Scholten embodied “Iowa’s ethics.”
“We are looking for better government,” Freese said. “We’re going to win it because the moment is behind us. We’re standing with JD Scholten for all.”
Third district congressional candidate Austin Frerick and Ames Mayoral candidate Victoria Szopinski were the next two to speak.
Frerick stressed that Iowa agriculture is in an identical state as it was during the Farm Crisis of the 1980’s.
He also addressed the recent five-year 7 percent tuition increase proposed by the University of Iowa, stating that tuition hikes were a driving factor in many of his classmates leaving the state of Iowa.
Szopinski, a founding member of the Ames Progressive Alliance, used the event as a platform to highlight several accomplishments of the Alliance, which included the implementation of the Ames Pride Fest and their support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“Facing challenges in housing, mental health and creating environmental commitments,” Szopinski said. “We need a representative like JD in Washington.”
Democratic gubernatorial, John Norris, took the stage just before Scholten.
Corporate tech giant Apple announced Thursday that it would be opening a $1.3 billion data center in Waukee. The state of Iowa will be giving giving Apple about $208 million in tax abatements, according to the LA Times. Norris was critical of Reynolds’ administration for the tax break.
“If you look at the the corporate tax cuts and hand outs [the state] has done in the past four years, you will see that they’ve bankrupted the ability to fund so many things,” Norris said. “Their greed is colliding. They’re more worried about the social welfare of corporations at the expense of our future.”
Norris dubbed King as a “poster child” for “hatred and division” in America. He also said that King is driving an agenda that favors the coal and gas industries that is against “the people of the district.”
“Anyone who wants to take on Steve King is a friend of mine,” Norris said.