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Scholten Says King is Vulnerable

October 10, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

by Darren Fraser

In last Friday's townhall meeting at the Wellness Center, first-time congressional candidate J.D. Scholten said incumbent Republican Steve King is vulnerable in the November primary.

Democrat Scholten addressed a small crowd at noon. The discussion covered multiple topics including healthcare, the economy, agriculture, education and King.

Article Photos

J.D. Scholten spoke at a townhall meeting at the Wellness Center last Friday. --Darren Fraser photo

Scholten kicked off the meeting by saying, "The average congressman is 58-years old and is a millionaire. I am 20 years younger and a million dollars short of that."

Scholten is a fifth-generation Iowan. He was born in Ames but moved to Sioux City when he was four. He attended Morningside College and the University of Nebraska. He played baseball all through school and eventually went on to play professionally in seven countries.

Scholten worked as a litigation paralegal after his playing days were done. He said he was living out of state at the time of the 2016 election. "But I visited my grandma in a nursing home here [Iowa]. During the days we spent together, she recommended jobs to me, none of which I felt qualified to do." Scholten said after moving back to Sioux City, the only job he could find that would provide any decent quality of life paid $15 an hour. "There was something terribly wrong about that," he said. Seven months later, he decided to run for Congress.

Scholten first spoke about healthcare. He said Americans pay the most of any country for healthcare but get the least in return. "When we fill up Sioux City Sue [the name of the recreational vehicle Scholten travels in], I see donation boxes at the pumps from people needing money for medical costs," he said. Scholten said one in three GoFundMe campaigns are for the purpose of covering medical bills. "Sixty percent of bankruptcies are medical-related," he said. "Of these people, 72 percent have health insurance."

Scholten wants to introduce a public option to healthcare to stabilize the market. He advocates a Medicare buy-in for all but particularly for those individuals who want to retire early. He also wants to rein in the soaring costs of prescription drugs.

Turning to mental health, Scholten said the system is broke and Iowa is a prime example. "Iowa is 51st in the country in terms of [available] mental health beds. The only options people have are jails or emergency rooms," said Scholten.

He said the suicide rate of farmers is completely unacceptable, as is the rate among veterans.

Scholten conceded the economy is thriving, but added, "Sixty percent of Americans cannot afford a $500 emergency. The average 30-year old today is making [salary] what the average 30-year old made 30 years ago." He reflected on his recent 20th high school reunion. "A lot of my classmates are doing well, but they are doing well in Des Moines or out of state. They're not doing well here [rural Iowa]."

Scholten criticized the federal government's treatment of farmers. He said local agriculture is being assailed on three fronts by the government. One, the corporate consolidation of farms increases pressure on and costs to the local, independent farmer. Two, President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue have reneged on their promise of year-round ethanol 15. "And the small refinery waiver program has been abused. These waivers have led to 900 bushels of corn left in the bins. The carryover depresses prices up to 40 cents per bushel."

The third front: Scholten pointed out the irony of the trade wars with China. "The U.S. is borrowing money from China to give to farmers so they don't have to sell their products to China," he said. He added that many of the U.S. agriculture corporations impacted by tariffs also work in South America where China has turned to for soybeans and other tariff-targeted products.

Scholten concluded his opening remarks by saying he is opposed to school vouchers, particularly in the 4th district. "Any money we take away from public schools undermines our public schools," he said.

Dave Nixon of Emmetsburg opened the question and answer session. Nixon asked Scholten, "What special strategies do you have to remove an incumbent who is a bigot and who does not fit the ideal of a politician from Iowa?"

Scholten replied his campaign would utilize the "Moneyball" strategy, referring to the book about the Oakland Athletics baseball organization. The 2002 Athletics had one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball but went on compile the longest winning streak in baseball history and win their division. "They [Athletics] maximized things that were underutilized," said Scholten. With respect to his campaign, these underutilized elements include social meeting and old-fashioned barnstorming. He said his campaign has 80,000 Twitter followers. "When we started [the campaign], we had zero." He said the use of social media has allowed his campaign to make up considerable ground in the polls. "Fifteen month ago, the national polls had us 22 points down," he said. "A month ago, the Emerson Poll had us 10 points down. Our personal poll had us six points down."

The conversation turned to Representative King. Mike Wentzel of Emmetsburg asked Scholten why King won't debate him. Scholten said social media is a factor. "Before this technology, King's supporters could tell themselves the negative things coming out of King's camp were being trumped up by the Democrats. But now they [supporters] can read his Twitter feed and his terrible Facebook pages." Scholten added, "They can no longer say, 'That's Steve being Steve' or refer to him as the crazy uncle."

Continuing on King's longevity in Congress he is in is eighth term another audience mentioned that the "good Christian voters" she knows are single-issue minded. "They only care about gun rights and abortion," said the audience member. "As long as he [King] agrees with them, they'll continue to vote for him."

Scholten is pro-choice. "I don't want to stand between a woman and her doctor," he said. He added there is room to come together on the topic. "Universal healthcare [of which he is a proponent], education, contraceptives," said Scholten, referring to ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

On gun control, Scholten said his neighbor owns AR-15 rifles. His neighbor bristles when the two men discuss gun control. "But he is completely onboard when it comes to instituting red flags," said Scholten. These red flags include denying a gun permit to anyone convicted of domestic violence. "Just common-sense stuff," he said. "Taking away some types of ammunition."

Scholten believes the country's immigration policy must be revised to provide clear pathways to residency and citizenship. "I was talking to a group of grain elevator executives recently," he said. "I was the only Democrat in the room. But all of these execs agreed with me that agriculture needs immigrant labor."

Scholten appeared reluctant early in the meeting to go after King. But as the hour ended, he was openly critical of his opponent. "He is more concerned with events in Eastern Europe. He supports [Senator] Ted Cruz. Cruz is anti-ethanol." Referring to the tariffs, Scholten said, "Iowa is bearing the brunt. Not Texas oil or Silicon Valley technology."

Scholten believes King is complacent. "He [King] says since there is no clear division of issues [between the candidates], the debate would degenerate into name calling." After a pause, Scholten said, "There is most definitely a division of issues."

Scholten concluded the meeting by saying King is vulnerable. "When an incumbent polls at 50 percent or less, that person is vulnerable," he said. "King is polling between 41 and 43 percent."

 
 
 

 

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