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Political Mercury

Scholten makes second bid for King’s seat


J.D. Scholten campaigns recently in Exira. The Democratic candidate for Congress thinks he can cut into Republican margins in rural Iowa. Photo by Douglas Burns

J.D. Scholten — an Iowa Democrat who rose from obscurity to national prominence with a near-miss challenge to U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, two years ago — has filed nomination for a second run in the sweeping, 39-county 4th Congressional District.

Scholten, 40, a former minor league baseball player from Sioux City, faces no primary opposition. King is in a five-way race in the June primary, although early polling shows the veteran conservative congressman with strong margins against his Republican opponents.

“It’s a unique race in the fact that it’s probably the one race in America where the incumbent has a primary and the challenger doesn’t,” Scholten said in a phone interview with this newspaper as he filed. “We’re out here just building and waiting to see who we’re going to face.”

King is being challenged in the Republican 4th District primary by State Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull, Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City, Bret Richards, the former mayor of Irwin, and Arnolds Park businessman Steve Reeder.

Prep Iowa

In recent weeks, Scholten stopped in Exira, and later Dedham, where he drew a crowd of 20 at the American Legion. It’s part of the Democratic congressional candidate’s “Don’t Forget About Us” tour in which he hits communities of fewer than 1,000 people. Scholten sees the early campaigning as vital to getting past the 3-point margin by which he lost to King in the last election.

“We created this grassroots movement here in western and northwest Iowa that not too many saw coming,” Scholten said.

He added, “A lot of people thought it would take two times to beat an incumbent like that.”

Scholten said the support at the beginning of the campaign this cycle is “night-and-day” different, as fundraising and policy backing is coming quickly.

Scholten said his issues would be “fix, fight and secure.”

“It’s fix health care, fight for an economy that works for everyone and secure a democracy by cleaning up the special interests that are dictating things out in D.C. these days,” Scholten said. “That goes from stopping in these local towns and seeing a donation box (for health care costs) to all these grocery stores that are struggling in these small towns to survive.”

Scholten said one major improvement in his campaign will be his own greater fluency on agricultural issues, as he has spent three years in regular day-to-day involvement with farmers and rural issues.

“The more you talk to farmers, the more pain you feel,” Scholten said. “The more you look at what’s happening in D.C., the policies dictate almost everything in agriculture. The No. 1 thing I try to work with folks on is that we need to enforce our anti-trust laws in agriculture.”

Scholten said he consulted with several of the Democratic presidential candidates on rural policy.

So far, in the 2020 cycle, according to the non-partisan, Scholten has raised $726,528 to King’s $258,455.

Scholten supports Sen. Mitt Romney’s plan to send a one-time, $1,000 check to every adult American to buoy the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.

Scholten also backs even more aggressive temporary-income-boosting legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, to provide a check between $1,000 and $6,000 to every American who earned less than $65,000 last year. More than three-quarters of American workers would qualify for this tax relief.

“We need to get cash into people’s hands right now,” Scholten said in a follow up email. “It’s short-sighted for us to encourage workers to stay home if we know we’re leaving them without options to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads.”

Americans most likely to be impacted by the public health crisis — including hourly workers, independent contractors and gig workers — would get a much-needed emergency boost during an economic downturn with the checks, Khanna and Ryan have said.

Scholten agrees because that’s what he’s hearing around western and central Iowa.

“Just a few days ago, I talked with a trucker who’s self-employed,” Scholten said. “If he and his wife can’t work, they can’t put food on the table. That’s why I’m fully supportive of Ro Khanna and Tim Ryan’s proposal to give between $1,000 to $6,000 to folks who made under $65,000 last year — folks like that trucker and his wife. These are the people who are feeling the brunt of this crisis. While I believe we should be targeting assistance to those most in need and not the Jeff Bezoses of America, I would also be supportive of Sen. Romney’s proposal to give every American $1,000. The bottom line is that these proposals would be extremely effective at stimulating the economy while keeping Americans safe and healthy.” ♦

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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