Caleb M. S.—Staff Writer
JD Scholten is not accustomed to looking upwards. He stands at 6’6” and has parlayed his stature to play professional baseball across the world. But now Scholten sets his sights on a loftier goal: the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the 2018 cycle, the Scholten challenged long-time incumbent Rep. Steve King for his seat in the House. His democratic campaign ended up three points shy of victory, but the strength of his push sent a clear message: Northwest Iowa was ready for a change.
Now, a cycle later, battle-tested and hungry for more, Scholten is back running for a seat in Congress. Scholten, the only Democrat on the ballot in a deep red district, faces Dordt professor Randy Feenstra in the upcoming general election.
Scholten is a 5th generation Iowan from Sioux City. After turning down a chance at the 2001 MLB draft, Scholten went to pitch for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His professional career took his skills to Canada and Europe, where he pitched in seven countries over four years.
After his baseball stint, Scholten returned to his hometown of Sioux City, where he began a career as a paralegal. Scholten found a love for pro-bono legal work– a branch of law where disadvantaged clients are provided legal assistance without charge. Scholten’s compassion morphed into a dedicated desire to represent the underserved residents of Iowa District Four, Steve King’s territory.
“We have an authentic campaign that reflects who I am and what I want for the district”
First elected in 2002, King has often been accused of making racist and inflammatory comments. Despite representing a state which sent troops to support the Union in the Civil War, King was known for having a Confederate battle flag on his desk.
Scholten’s first run for Congress in 2018 was more than a run against King, however. The candidate made very clear his aims were greater than “Not Steve King.” Scholten made a commitment to visit every one of the 39 counties in his district in the 2018 campaign– a goal he met.
Even outside of his district, Scholten has attracted the support of household names. During the 2018 cycle, Star Wars legend Mark Hamill tweeted his support of JD Scholten, calling the candidate “Our only hope!”
Additionally, in the announcement of the launch of his 2020 cycle campaign, actor Kevin Costner provided voiceover for Scholten’s video. Costner’s agency speaks highly of Scholten, saying he is “running for the community,” and is “organic” and “genuine.”
Scholten is a practicing Catholic, and his faith plays into his policies. He cites his faith as a defining reason he is in favor of healthcare expansion and supporting women’s rights. Central to Scholten’s platform is also the success of Iowan farmers and businessmen who have suffered financially under the previous administration.
As of the end of September, Scholten has outraised Feenstra by over $800,000. Scholten notably turned down financial assistance from the House Democrats Congressional Campaign Committee, not wanting to be tethered to the whims of a political machine.
“We have an authentic campaign that reflects who I am and what I want for the district,” Scholten wrote. “The DCCC-type of campaign where you sit at home and fundraise all day doesn’t win respect, trust, or elections in these parts and wouldn’t be a good start to addressing the serious challenges facing rural America.”
Feenstra, on the other hand, has taken donations from notable Republicans, including former Iowa Governor Terry Brandstead, Trump administration Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and $20,000 from Peter De Yager– the Northwest Iowa businessman who recently engaged in a series of political sign and newspaper thefts.
Still, Scholten faces an uphill battle in the final few weeks before the election. Feenstra is leading in some polls by upwards of 20%. Art Cullen, the editor of the Storm Lake Times, attributes this largely to identity politics in the district.
“We’d elect Attila the Hun if he was pro-life and had “Republican” behind his name,” the Storm Lake native said to The Atlantic in an interview this past summer.
Regardless of the outcome in November, Scholten’s continued influence and prevalence in the district marks a definite shift in politics and ethics. More and more signs for the candidate have been popping up around Sioux Center, and residents appear to be more open with their political identities. Scholten, above all else, is leading a charge in what is sure to be a political upheaval in Northwest Iowa.