The year is 2006. Professional baseball player J.D. Scholten is struggling to find a team willing to give him a chance.
Scholten, a Sioux City native, played for the Sioux City Explorers in previous years. He decided to give the team a call.
“I had no place to play,” Scholten said in an interview Friday with this newspaper in Carroll. “I was desperate. I asked if they would take me back.”
The Explorers allowed Scholten into their camp as the 18th pitcher on the roster. The team kept only 10 for the season.
“I just out worked everybody,” Scholten said. “I made the squad and played my best season of professional baseball.
That’s the same mentality I’m bringing to this campaign.”
Today, Scholten, 37, is a freelance litigation paralegal running for Congress as a Democrat against longtime GOP U.S. Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s 4th District. No other Democrat has formally announced a campaign, but time remains, as the primaries aren’t until next June.
The campaign will be Scholten’s first run for public office. Scholten said that he will rely on a competitive spirit he garnered through years of athletics to push them through what he dubbed “an uphill battle.”
“I wasn’t a very good baseball player, but I played for a long time because I outworked people,” Scholten said. “It’s an uphill battle because I’ve never run for office before. Being competitive means being diligent in everything I do.”
Scholten is a fifth-generation Iowan. He was born in Ames. His family moved to Sioux City when he was 3 years old.
He graduated from East High School and attended Morningside College. He transfered to the University of Nebraska, where he played on a College World Series team.
Scholten would pursue a professional baseball team following his time at the University of Nebraska. He played professionally in seven countries. He also played for the Sioux City Explorers over the course of four seasons.
After living in Seattle for the last decade, Scholten returned to Iowa a month ago to buy his childhood home.
“I’m a fifth-generation Iowan,” Scholten said. “That defines me more than being tall; more than being bald; more than being a baseball player. I’m a product of the 4th District.”
Scholten, who stands 6-6, defined the congressional race as a matter of restoring decency and integrity in the 4th District. He scalded King’s rhetoric as divisive, calling the eight-term representative a “controversial figure.”
In July, King proposed allocating billions from Planned Parenthood and federal foods stamps to pay for President Trump’s proposed border wall. Four Iowa Planned Parenthood facilities closed in June as a result of legislation passed last session that stopped family-planning funds from going to clinics that provide abortion.
“Aside from the abortion issue, Planned Parenthood does a lot of wonderful things,” Scholten said. “Nobody is for abortion. You have those other services (at Planned Parenthood) that try to prevent it.”
Scholten is strongly pro-choice. He cited a study that presented abortions at an all-time low before federal cuts to Planned Parenthood. He said that rural communities are struggling with providing adequate health care in general.
“We’re going to have a huge shortage of doctors in rural areas. That’s very serious,” Scholten said.
King has also been open about his opinion of undocumented students protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012. In April, King took to twitter to celebrate the deportation of a non-valedictorian DREAMer.
King was widely criticized for the tweet, though he would double down on the comment in later interviews. Scholten said that undocumented immigrants have been important contributors to western Iowa. If elected, Scholten said, he would seek a more “common sense” approach to immigration reform.
“The Farm Bureau has come out and said that if we continue to enforce the enhancement of ICE, it’s going to cost agriculture $60 billion. We need to go beyond that. We need a way to get undocumented immigrants legalized,” Scholten said.
In terms of education, Scholten said his main focus would be reducing student debt. He said that he would develop a crossroads between educators and employers in an effort to establish a vision for future generations.
“We’re going to see a change in the economy,” Scholten said. “We can’t continue to let people come out of college with great debts and expect them to find great jobs right away.”
Despite having no previous experience in politics, Scholten is confident that his work ethic and values will win Iowa’s 4th District. Kim Weaver, the Democratic nominee in the district in 2016 who withdrew from a 2018 candidacy, has already announced that she is endorsing Scholten. A top aide from Weaver’s campaign is now Scholten’s political director, according to the Des Moines Register.
“I’m going to bring a new, youthful energy to the district,” Scholten said. “Maybe I’m not ready today, but I will be ready and I am working my way and catching up to (King). I will outwork him.”