The 2020 campaign had been going well for J.D. Scholten, the former minor league pitcher turned Democratic congressional candidate in Iowa.
He had raised more than $1 million in a bid to unseat Representative Steve King, the nine-term Republican congressman who had alienated voters with his racist comments about immigration. Kevin Costner had narrated an ad for Mr. Scholten, evoking the Iowa landscape in “Field of Dreams.” National Democrats such as Cory Booker and Julián Castro had lined up to endorse him.
But just when it seemed the momentum was in Mr. Scholten’s favor, the dynamics shifted. In a dramatic turn of events in Tuesday’s primary election, Mr. King was defeated by another Republican, Randy Feenstra.
With the removal of Mr. King, who had been ostracized even within his own party, the seat Democrats hoped to flip appears to be further out of reach. Mr. Scholten was only about 10,000 votes shy of defeating Mr. King in their previous matchup in 2018. But Republican voters outnumber Democrats in the congressional district, Iowa’s Fourth, by more than 70,000.
Now, it’s almost as if Iowa Democrats are mourning Mr. King’s primary defeat as much as any of his Republican supporters.
We spoke to Mr. Scholten about what this means for his campaign between now and Nov. 3, when he will face Mr. Feenstra in the general election.
He seemed undeterred and said he planned to hit the road in his R.V., sleeping in Walmart parking lots during campaign trips through the 39-county district, a rural swath of the state that stretches from Sioux City to Mason City to Ames. (Mr. Feenstra didn’t respond to our request for an interview.)
Mr. Scholten said his strategy would remain the same, but a new theme emerged: He suggested that Mr. Feenstra is beholden to outside interests. As usual, our conversation has been edited and condensed.
Written by Stephanie Saul