Scholten ready to rock and fire at King

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

JD Scholten thinks Steve King will win a primary next June, and that he will knock off the incumbent Republican congressman in November 2020.

I caught up with the affable former semi-pro pitcher as Scholten was driving to Des Moines from the rural home of his girlfriend’s family near Lenox. (She is a college swimming coach. Her first name translates to “goddess” in Danish. Is there some bigger news here than your congressional intentions, JD? When you spend the weekend with her parents …)

“I believe that Steve King will win that primary,” said Scholten, a Sioux City Democrat with horse sense and a dog-like nose for politics who likes to pitch inside.

Scholten pointed out that King’s most formidable challenger, Randy Feenstra of Hull, has watched his fundraising fall off in the last quarter, after King was stripped of his committee assignments for more routinely outrageous comments on race and culture. Scholten figures Feenstra needs to raise $1 million for the primary, mainly to heighten his name ID. Feenstra has raised a third that much, not the sort of surge to scare off King. King needs no name ID. Those huge signs along the county blacktop intersections have been standing there 20 years.

Scholten is convinced that King will get the necessary 35% in the primary over three other candidates. He does not believe the race will go to convention. Even if it did, that’s how King won the nomination in the first place — at a four-way primary in Denison where he organized the evangelical base.

Further evidence: The GOP establishment tried to shut King out, but Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Joni Ernst will not endorse Feenstra or King. The Des Moines Republicans believe Feenstra will win, but they do not know Rolfe or Varina. King is in Varina every time you turn around handing out a quilt to a grieving military family.

Scholten still has Sioux City Sue, his used Winnebago that trucked him around the 39 counties of the Fourth Congressional District in 2018. He came within a couple points of King and surprised a lot of people.

Scholten has not formally announced whether he will run against King.

He is running.

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “Last cycle we hoped to win. This cycle we intend to win.”

I assume that means Scholten is in.

He swore off running against Sen. Joni Ernst.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted the Fourth shortly after the midterm election. DCCC Chair Rep. Cheri Bustos of the Quad Cities is enthusiastic about Scholten and courted him to run again. For the first time ever, a King opponent will have money.

Scholten ran a populist campaign reminiscent of Tom Harkin and Berkley Bedell, his two political heroes. He argued that farmers and rural areas have been forgotten by King and President Trump. He is persistently nice and polite, unlike King, with a sense of sarcasm that usefully can go to the throat when need be.

He understands voter frustration and why that gets directed into support for King. He knows how to tap into that sense of loss by offering hope instead of sheer anger.

Scholten can win. It’s how Bedell won — he tied Nixon to Wiley Mayne and won on the second try. Scholten can tie King or Feenstra to the most corrupt and venal politician in American history, worse than Benedict Arnold.

The wave did not crest in 2018. Scholten is preparing to ride it. He will unveil his campaign very soon, as the Iowa State Fair is just around the corner.

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