Dr. John Paschen (left), a Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 4th District, speaks with Dr. Scott Richardson, host of a meet and greet for the Ames pediatrician in Carroll Sunday. Paschen is also talking with Ruth Barrett.
Dr. John Paschen (left), a Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 4th District, speaks with Dr. Scott Richardson, host of a meet and greet for the Ames pediatrician in Carroll Sunday. Paschen is also talking with Ruth Barrett.

May 1, 2018

Dr. John Paschen, an Ames pediatrician running for the congressional seat now held by Republican Steve King, says a natural evolution from three decades of caring for Iowans as a physician is to serve in Washington, D.C., where he can affect policy changes to improve the local medical care he’s dedicated his professional life to providing.

“I think it’s time to put down my stethoscope and pick up my pen and write legislation,” Paschen said.

In many respects, Paschen, a Democrat who has taken fiercely liberal positions on high-profile issues, sees himself as a political descendent of a conservative Republican doctor, Greg Ganske, who surprised the national political establishment in 1994 with an upset win over veteran Iowa U.S. Rep. Neal Smith, a Democrat who wielded enormous inside-the-Beltway power and was widely seen as invulnerable. Most political observers, in the media or in professional political roles, take it as a given that King, an eight-term incumbent, will cruise to re-election.

Like Ganske, Paschen believes in term limits and pledges to stay in Congress for no longer than three terms (six years) if elected in November.

Paschen is one of three Democrats seeking his party’s nomination in the sweeping 4th District in June; the other two candidates are former minor league baseball player J.D. Scholten of Sioux City and Spencer City Councilwoman Leann Jacobsen.

In terms of health-care legislation, Paschen describes himself as a “big fan” of Obamacare who would like to see the nation move to Medicare coverage for all.

“What we really need to have is a single-payer system,” Paschen said Sunday afternoon during remarks at the Carroll home of Dr. Scott and Kathy Richardson.

About 25 people from Carroll and Sac counties attended the public event at the Richardsons’ home just south of the Carroll Municipal Golf Course.

The public option Paschen envisions would allow all Americans access to Medicare that would serve as a dry run for a single-payer system of health-care coverage.

A single-payer system would involve a public-financed entity covering heath-care costs that are delivered through private or nonprofit providers. It’s often called “Medicare for all.” Under a public option, a government-run health-insurance operation would compete with private insurers, giving patients an “option” to use public or private carriers.

“Who better to represent us in the U.S. Congress than a pediatrician,” Kathy Richardson said.

Several Democrats who attended the Paschen event wanted to know how he planned to challenge King, a congressman who has developed a national reputation for provocative and often incendiary comments on immigration, culture and other matters.

The reason that the good people in northwest Iowa vote for him is because they feel he’s an honest person, that he believes what he says,” Paschen said. “He’s just not saying things because a pundit tells him to say it or that advisers tell him he shouldn’t say that.”

Paschen said King comes across as “not really a politician.”

So Democrats, rather than calling King a racist — which in effect is tagging all of the people who voted for him as racists, too — need to present a forceful, honest alternative, one that clearly comes from the heart, Paschen said.

“We present the voters with the same type of morality and strength in what we believe in, but just a different option,” Paschen said. “When he says how terrible Obamacare is we remind people that the Affordable Care Act has put 20 million people on the insurance rolls.”

Paschen said he supports “common-sense” gun control, which he says should include an assault-weapons ban and vesting sheriffs around the nation with the authority to prohibit citizens from buying handguns based purely on their judgment of a person’s stability.

Paschen has said he is willing to lose a congressional race over gun issues and will offer a clear contrast to King.

“When he makes a statement like you can take my AR-15 away from me when you take it out of my cold, dead hands, we can remind him that everyone has an inalienable right to go to an outdoor concert, go to church or go to school without the fear of being shot,” Paschen said.

Paschen is pro-choice on abortion and noted this wife, Cynthia, has volunteered for years for Planned Parenthood.

Paschen also supports making community college education free to students. He said that will help boost rural areas because students who graduate from two-year programs generally don’t carry the debt their peers with degrees from universities and four-year colleges do — debt that often requires them to move to urban areas to make the salaries necessary to pay back loans.