J.D. Scholten, and most political observers, entered 2020 believing the Democrat was set for a rematch this fall with Congressman Steve King.
Then, on Jan. 9 of last year, state Sen. Randy Feenstra announced his candidacy for the 4th District seat. The next day, an article was published in the New York Times that led to King’s removal from House committees, setting in motion Republicans’ playbook to defeat him in last Tuesday’s primary election.
Instead of going up against a controversial politician known for racist remarks and views, Scholten will face Feenstra, a party-line politician and establishment candidate, on Election Day Nov. 3.
“I think the difference between King and Feenstra is that King was his own man,” Scholten told Starting Line. “Say what you want about his racism — I denounce it. I think it’s awful. I disagree with most things that King stands for and talks about and voted on — but the one thing that King was was his own man.”
“He was anti-establishment,” Scholten continued. “And that’s the opposite of what you get from Feenstra. If his primary campaign was anything of an example of what we’re going to see in the general, there’s not a dime that he doesn’t turn down from special interests or corporate donors.”
On June 2, Feenstra received 45.6% of the vote in a five-way Republican primary. King, whose ninth term in the House expires at the end of the year, received support from 35.6% of voters.
In 2018, Scholten lost to King by only 3 percentage points despite the significant advantage in voter registration Republicans enjoy in conservative Western Iowa.
As of June 1, there are 198,289 active registered Republicans in the district compared to 128,136 registered Democrats and 154,529 “No Party” voters.
Despite Feenstra’s built-in advantage in the district, Scholten, of Sioux City, said he will make the case to voters the same way he did last cycle.
“What we need as a district — well, what we don’t need is just not Steve King. That’s not good enough,” Scholten said. “We need a leader in this district who fits the district and has a vision for the future. And so much of what we did last time … we barely talked about our opponent other than that’s who we’re running against. It’s about what we’re for, not just who we’re against.
“As far as that’s concerned, we’re still focused on the future,” he said, “and once it’s a little bit safer we’re going to get in our campaign RV, Sioux City Sue, and really hit the road to go to all 39 counties and try to win over votes.”
Predictably, Feenstra already is framing the race against Scholten as a mission to rid Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of her House speakership.
He recently wrote on Twitter: “Our Democrat opponent, JD Scholten, will be a reliable vote for Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies. We can’t let them take this seat and enact their extreme agenda.”
Our Democrat opponent, JD Scholten, will be a reliable vote for Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies. We can’t let them take this seat and enact their extreme agenda. Can you chip in $25, $50, $100 to help us catch up to Scholten's $600k war chest? #IA04https://t.co/Jitag51N1v
— Randy Feenstra (@RandyFeenstra) June 3, 2020
Scholten has recently been using his platform to talk about COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants, struggles in the agricultural economy and racial justice protests.
From today’s “Justice for George Floyd” protest here in Sioux City.
— J.D. Scholten (@JDScholten) June 5, 2020
“Fix, Fight, Secure,” Scholten said, repeating a campaign slogan. “We got to fix health care. We got to fight for an economy that works for everyone. We need to secure our democracy, because right now special interests dictate our economy. I think the pandemic has really shown those three exact things.”
Scholten was an underdog in the 2018 contest and faces an uphill climb again in 2020. Despite the naysayers, the former professional baseball player is not backing down.
“It’s interesting, all last cycle I had to convince people that my race was winnable,” Scholten said. “And here we are, two years later, and a lot of the pundits and a lot of the ratings and all that jazz — they’re the same people two years ago that counted us out and they’re counting us out again. The competitor in me just says ‘game on.'”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.