A human rights campaign needed for Western Iowa



A former pro baseball player. A bus driver who used to be a Methodist minister. A pediatrician from Ames. And a coffee shop owner. This is the post-Labor Day field of candidates seeking to unseat Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in the 2018 midterm elections.

JD Scholten. Paul Dahl. John Paschen. Leann Jacobsen. All Democrats.

Plus, maybe a commercial painter and grandson of a Mexican immigrant on the Republican side. Steve Duncan of Des Moines, who said he might move into the district and drive around in a motorhome. He is that disgusted. But the painting business is good and we haven’t heard from him lately.

They all have their reasons like so many before.

From those before they should know this:

A Democrat has to pick up about 80% of the independent vote to win. That’s if just about every Democrat turns out, which is uncommon in midterm elections in frustrated Northwest Iowa.

A Democrat can expect absolutely no support from institutions in Washington. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee won’t put a penny in. Neither will anybody else.

Unions don’t exist in Northwest Iowa. Even the teachers are Republican.

JD Scholten is a genuine man with fascinating tales from his days pitching for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and independent ball. He is a paralegal from Sioux City, a bachelor and has nothing to lose. But he doesn’t know the ropes. He is trying to learn fast.

Paul Dahl is from Webster City and drives a bus. He is the populist in the race.

Paschen is a pediatrician from the McFarland Clinic in Ames. He is sober and serious. He has a humble heart, I think. Obviously, he is smart. He is giving up a lot by running. He doesn’t know the ropes.

Leann Jacobsen is a businesswoman from Spencer who serves on the city council. She is positive and upbeat and doesn’t want to attack King. Good luck with that.

Their reward in heaven will be great. But their prognosis, to use a pediatric term, is bleak.

You could build an argument, as we have, that King holds Storm Lake and Northwest Iowa back by his belligerence and his active work against immigrants — his slanders, his discouragement, his absolutism and his obstruction of justice for de facto refugees. We could move forward and build more prosperity if we embraced reality and accepted immigrants in our midst. The greatest issue facing rural Iowa is population loss. Immigration is the only proven rebuttal.

King does not win Storm Lake. So a candidate can make a mark here. Paschen says he wants to announce his candidacy here because of immigrants. That’s a good sign.

Every way has been tried to beat King except for a human rights campaign.

Christie Vilsack tried to out-nice him. King talked steel-blue guns with steel-blue eyes. Jim Mowrer out-debated him but laid an egg on the campaign trail with no support and little charisma. Paul Shomshor tried to out-reason him but King is a master of faux logic.

Berkley Bedell beat Wiley Mayne primarily because of honesty and moral outrage.

If there were a candidate like that, dead serious who ran a human rights campaign, Latinos might care enough to vote. Independents might check their consciences as they filter out of church for the next service, held in Spanish. Business Republicans who are bothered by meanness and interfering with employee relationships just might secretly jump over behind the curtain.

Bedell ran on the outrage of Watergate and Vietnam. This could be a wave election that turns on outrage against Trump and a Congress that can’t even tie its shoes, much less give justice to the working poor.

Democrats should try being Democrats even out here, just once.

It worked for Tom Harkin. It worked for Bedell.

They ran against Big Business and Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex and Big Ag.

They ran with a sense of moral outrage that we have not heard in years.

We are not hearing it now.

Vulgarity and cynicism prevail.

A Democrat just might have a chance if he or she came along and said: “We want justice for immigrants who do the work in rural communities nobody else will. We want it now. We will not rest until justice is done. We want clean air and water again. We want healthy farms and towns and a government that supports our hospital and cares for veterans. We need Pell Grants for Buena Vista University and funds to help our after-school programs.”

If you only could get people to listen.

It has to start with a campaign for basic human rights. We have been stomping on them every two years we vote for Congress. Somebody needs to define and embrace the issue, finally.