Democrat J.D. Scholten announced Monday that he will once again challenge controversial GOP Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s 4th District. He had also been considering entering the Democratic primary to take on Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020.
King eeked out a 3-point victory over Scholten in the 2018 midterm elections, even though President Donald Trump carried the 4th District by 27 points in 2016. His reelection prevented Iowa’s entire four-seat House delegation from going blue in 2018, after Republicans controlled all but one seat the previous Congress.
All four of Iowa’s congressional districts will be intense battlegrounds this cycle, with longtime Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack retiring in the 2nd District and freshman Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne in the 1st and 3rd districts, respectively, seeking reelection in swing districts.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 2020 race for Iowa’s 4th District Likely Republican.
Scholten raised more than $3.3 million in the 2018 cycle and will look to build upon that fundraising success again, promising to “fix our healthcare system, fight for an economy for all, and secure our democracy,” he said in a statement Monday.
Scholten’s announcement video, narrated by “Field of Dreams” actor Kevin Costner, does not mention King or any of the controversial behavior that cast doubt over his reelection last year. In his announcement rollout, the Democratic former professional baseball pitcher has only made one oblique reference to King’s past racist comments.
Scholten “rejects the use of divisive labels and hatred that fuel violence and drive us apart, and is focused on building an inclusive, safe community for all,” his campaign said in a press release announcing his candidacy Monday.
King has been a lightning rod for criticism — including from members of his own party — over the past couple years for retweeting, and meeting, with far-right groups that have ties to Nazis. He consistently decries what he sees as the demise of white Americans as the U.S. becomes more diverse.
“Western civilization is on the decline,” King said at a meeting last year with a handful of reporters and activists, including a member of a far-right group in Austria that was founded by a former Nazi SS officer.
This past January, just months after King’s election night victory over Scholten, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Steering Committee stripped the congressman of his assignments on the House Agriculture and Judiciary Committees after the New York Times published racist comments he made to the paper regarding the “white nationalist” and “white supremacist.”
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said, according to the New York Times.
“Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” he is quoted as asking.
King later claimed that he was misquoted.
The full House voted 421-1 on a resolution meant to rebuke King for his comments to the Times. King voted in favor of the resolution, which stated that the House rejects white nationalism and white supremacy as “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
Only Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush voted against the resolution, saying it didn’t go far enough to condemn King’s behavior.