J.D. Scholten, who narrowly lost to Rep. Steve King in the 2018 general election, announced on Monday morning he is running again in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
“It’s official — we’re all in to defeat Steve King,” Scholten posted on Facebook.
Scholten made his announcement with a video that has great production values — including narration by Kevin Costner — but no mention of political issues. Instead of explaining what Scholten would do in Congress, it stressed Scholten’s identity as a western Iowan, although it is vague as to what that means. The ad also never specifies that Scholten is a Democrat.
“It is here, among the rolling hills, along the endless road, in the wind,” Costner’s familiar voice says at the beginning of the video.
“It” turns out to be “the sense of who we are,” as well as “our virtues,” which can be found — among other places — “in the elders who know too much, and our children who know too little.” The video ends by panning up to Scholten’s face, as Costner says those values are “rooted within us, within him.”
Since last year’s election, Scholten has led Working Hero Iowa, a nonprofit dedicated to creating awareness of the earned income tax credit (EITC), a refundable federal tax credit for low- and moderate-income Americans. Working Hero Iowa promotes use of the EITC, which was created by Congress in 1975, as a way of combating poverty.
After his strong showing in the 4th District in 2018, Scholten was repeatedly urged to challenge Sen. Joni Ernst in the 2020 election.
“I would have a tough time running for Senate and watching King get re-elected,” Scholten told the Sioux City Journal.
It is far from certain whether King, a nine-term incumbent, will be the district’s Republican nominee. Although the Republican Party, at both the state- and national-levels, had tolerated King’s open white nationalism for more than a decade, that began to change last year.
The Republican National Congressional Committee dropped its support for King’s reelection bid one week before last year’s general election. Committee Chair Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio specifically cited King’s “white supremacist” beliefs as the reason for the action.
Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.
— Steve Stivers (@RepSteveStivers) October 30, 2018
King was also stripped of all committee assignments by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives in January. That came after King gave an interview to a New York Times reporter, in which he claimed not to understand how the terms white nationalist and white supremacist became “offensive.”
Iowa Republicans have not gone as far as their out-of-state counterparts.
The state’s top three Republicans — Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst — all maintained their support for King’s reelection even after the NRCC withdrew its support. King was a featured speaker at Reynolds’ final campaign stop last year. Earlier this year, Ernst declared she would remain neutral in the Republican primary in the 4th District, which is as close to rejecting King as any of the three GOP leaders has come.
King is facing three challengers in the 2020 primary: retired businessman Bret Richards of Irwin, Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor and state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull. Feenstra has so far received the most support from the Iowa Republican establishment, including a campaign donation from former governor Terry Branstad.
Scholten came closer than any previous challenger to defeating King, who was first elected to Congress in 2006, losing by only three percentage points. He received almost 147,000 votes in a district that only had approximately 123,000 registered Democrats in 2018.