J.D. Scholten
J.D. Scholten

August 5, 2019

He’s out of the bullpen.

His RV, Sioux City Sue, is road-ready.

And he’s been there before. There in 39 counties.

Pick your metaphor. J.D. Scholten, a former minor league baseball player who came close to ousting nine-term Republican Congressman Steve King with a barnstorming campaign last year, is running again in 2020 in the sprawling western and central Iowa 4th District, which covers 39 counties.

Scholten lost to King by 3 points, 50 percent to 47 percent, in 2018, but carried Woodbury, Story, Webster, Cerro Gordo, Boone and Floyd counties.

He considered running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, but opted for another House campaign where he would face King, should King emerge from a GOP primary with four candidates.

“I would have a tough time running for (the Senate) and watching King get reelected back in my home district,” Scholten said in an interview with the Times Herald. “There is a lot of unfinished business.”

Scholten moved the Democratic needle in the district by 24 points from the outcome of the Trump-Clinton contest in 2016, the third-best improvement in any congressional district for a Democrat in the United States.

“I just felt like this was the right move for a lot of different reasons,” he said.

Scholten said his last race will be a guide. He’ll campaign across the district and not rule out any voters, he said.

“I stand for fix, fight and secure,” he said. “Fix our broken healthcare system, fight for an economy that works for everybody and not just the 1 percent, the corporations, and secure our democracy from the special interests that dictate things right now.”

Scholten said he will give laser focus to rural and farm issues, and specifically the effects of monopoly and consolidation on farms.

“You won’t see King ever talking about this issue,” he said. “It’s one of those things where farmers are being squeezed on the input side and the output side.”

Something else for farmers to consider, Scholten said, is that King had his House Agriculture Committee seat stripped from him by GOP leadership over controversial comments on race and culture. Scholten said that, if elected, he’ll be well positioned for an appointment to the ag committee, a plum assignment for a northwest Iowan.

“We have to find a way for farmers to become profitable again,” he said, noting that he is a fifth-generation Iowan with farmers and educators in his family tree.

Scholten stops short of tagging King a racist for well-publicized remarks on immigrants and his assessment of the European culture as superior to others. But Scholten said it is fair for the media to question King in the manner it has.

“The fact that we even have to talk about racism and white nationalism about a member of Congress is a telling story in itself,” he said.

He said King’s true flaw is selfishness as farmers struggle in the district while the Kiron Republican has talked himself off the ag committee.

“I think that is the main point of a lot of why we are running,” Scholten said.

Scholten, 39, grew up in Sioux City, where his dad was a baseball coach at Morningside College. Scholten, who cuts a 6’6” figure, would go on to pitch for Nebraska University and later the minor league Sioux City Explorers and in Canada and Europe before pursuing a career in paralegal work.

He is dating Astrid Escobar, a Latina whose family has roots in Lenox and Britt in Iowa. Escobar, the head coach of men’s and women’s swimming and diving at the State University of New York in Fredonia, is a niece of Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso, Texas.

Scholten is planning an early campaign announcement throughout the 4th District.