Congressional candidates visit Greene County

Both candidates for the Fourth Congressional District seat – incumbent Republican Steven King and Democrat J.D. Scholten – have been in Jefferson in recent weeks. J.D. Scholten spoke at his 39-county “You Can’t Fake Showing Up” tour Oct. 15. King spoke at a fundraiser for Iowa House District 47 candidate Phil Thompson Oct. 22.

J.D. Scholten

Scholten spent time in Churdan talking with voters before he spoke with about 70 voters for about an hour in the council room at the Jefferson municipal building. His “stump speech” took up less than 20 minutes.

It was Scholten’s fifth visit to Jefferson this year, his fourth since winning the Democratic primary in June. It was part of his third 39-county tour.

He began by noting that the average person in Congress is 58 years old and has a net worth of $1 million. “I’m 20 years younger and $1 million shorter,” he said. “It’s where my mindset is about what’s happening in D.C. right now… a lot of my campaign is about getting back to a government by the people, for the people, and of the people.”

Scholten named three priorities: a healthcare system that works for all; an economy that works for all; and a government that works for all of us.

According to Scholten, Americans pay the most per capita for heath care of all developed countries, and that’s been the case for years. That comes with one of the lowest life expectancies. Of all bankruptcies in the U.S., 60 percent are related to medical expenses. Of that 60 percent, 72 percent of the families involved had health insurance.

He proposes a public option for healthcare coverage as a short-term solution. He supports a Medicare buy-in, particularly for persons 55 and older who want to retire. He would like small business owners to be able to buy-in to Medicare to offer a health benefit that allows them to compete with larger employers  for employees. Finally, he promotes “getting a handle” on prescription drug prices.

His long- term goal is Medicare for all, but he recognizes it will take several steps to get to that.

He named mental health care as the second part of health care, saying Iowa is 51st in the nation in mental health beds. “We need to find a national program that can help with mental health across the board.”

About the economy, he said 40 percent of Iowans can’t handle the basic costs of living, and that 60 percent of Americans can’t handle a $500 emergency. Wages are stagnant at a time when housing, medical costs, and student loan payments are at an all-time high.

He said his focus in the Fourth District would be to develop the economy to expand tech-related jobs as a way to keep young Iowans in Iowa, and to improve the agricultural economy. He noted Iowa’s Fourth District is the second most ag-producing congressional district in the nation.

The federal government is attacking Iowa agriculture three ways, according to Scholten: allowing corporate consolidations that add pressure and cost to farmers, squeezing them on both the input and the output ends; the renewable fuels standard and abuse of small refineries that have dropped corn prices; and the trade war. “We’re borrowing money from China to give to our farmers not to sell their products to China. That doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “We need to really look at how we’re going to fight to support the Iowa farmer.”

About a government that works for the people, Scholten said he has learned that most politicians begin working on re-election as soon as they get to Congress. He said campaign reform would allow politicians to work for the people. His campaign is taking no corporate PAC money.

During the Q & A portion of the meeting he demonstrated a grasp of a wide range of topics.
The Qs & As began with the Republican tax cuts. Scholten said the burden of the tax cuts will be felt by his generation (he’s 38 years old) and GenX. He said 67 percent of working families haven’t seen a change in income with the tax cut.

He said the focus of the bill was for the wealthy and corporations. He also said America hasn’t had an answer to globalization as it affects the middle class. He said he’d support reversing some of the tax cuts and giving a tax break to lower income earners.

His answer to a question about the relationship between drug abuse and jail overcrowding was that he’d work to improve access to mental health services and reform mandatory sentencing requirements.

To a question about school safety and gun violence, he said gun laws are controlled by special interest groups. Until last fall, the Centers for Disease Control was not allowed to study gun violence. That’s allowed now, but there isn’t funding for it. He said he’d support “red flag laws” that would temporarily take away an individual’s gun rights.

“It’s very frustrating… when 97 percent of Americans say they want universal background checks and we can’t get something passed. Something’s wrong,” Scholten said.

He was asked what his message is when he talks to loyal supporters of Steve King. He joked that his father is from northwest Iowa so he hopes a lot of friends and relatives will vote for him, and that he hopes they’re confused by his Dutch last name. But to answer the question, he said he explains that being a Congressman “is about showing up.” Even in counties in northwest Iowa, King supporters admit his public appearances are few and far between. He said a Representative should look people in the eye and talk about issues, and engage constituents in town hall meetings.

About immigration, Scholten said the Fourth Congressional District needs immigrant labor, and the current visa program has no provision for year-round laborers like those needed in the pork and dairy industries. He said there’s been no immigration reform since 1986,and what’s in place doesn’t match the modern economy. He favors a pathway to citizenship.

He said he’d agree to term limits, and that he has no desire to be a career politician. “You all can hold me accountable, because I plan to do a town hall every year in every county. Steve King first ran on term limits. I plan to hold him accountable because I’m going to limit him to eight.”

About Social Security, he said he’d eliminate the cap on earnings for Social Security withholding and keep the program solvent that way.

One person asked what Scholten sees as major threats to national security. Scholten answered that the U.S. military sees global climate change as the No. 1 potential threat, and that all planning includes protocols involving climate change.

He also said, “When we trade we don’t go to war with folks. I’m for trading and focusing on the economy side, and trying to figure out globalization as it affects that.” He said he’d make the State Department stronger and leave the military as a last option.

“The next world war, if it’s not already happening, will be a cyber war,” he said. “Steve King and I agree on one thing. We both want a wall. He wants a physical wall; I want a cyber wall…. We need to protect our government and our cyber security. That’s one area I’m really willing to invest in.”

In summary, Scholten said he’s proud that more of the discussion is about what he supports than about his opponent, Steve King, and that he senses momentum and hope among voters that there can be a change in representation in the Fourth District.

Congressman Steve King

King’s visit – The $25/person Thompson fundraiser at which King spoke a week later at Abundant Life Ministries was attended by about 50 persons. The weather had changed, and some who would have attended the event were harvesting that evening.

Chris Hagenow of Urbandale, Iowa House majority leader, spoke first. He said the Republicans are happy to support Thompson, and “the long and the short of it is… we’re in a fight for the future of our country. We’re in a fight for the soul of who we are as a nation.”

State treasurer candidate Jeremy Davis spoke, saying many of the same things GCNO reported from the GOP fundraiser in Grand Junction Oct. 9. He talked about Secretary of State Paul Pate and State Auditor Mary Mosiman, both running for re-election. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, running for election having been appointed earlier this year, spoke as well.

Congressman King spoke for 26 minutes and did not take questions. He began with one of his standard jokes, that there are three kinds of people: Republicans; convertibles; and the hopeless. “Let’s leave the hopeless home, bring the convertibles along only after they’re converted, and we’ll be on top of it.”

He said the Republicans have “moved the ball in the right direction in a significant way.” He said markers include that from 2006 to 2010, the Democrats had a “significant majority in the House, a bunch of radical lefties led by Nancy Pelosi, and in the Senate, they didn’t just have a bunch of radical lefties led by Harry Reid, they had a filibuster-proof majority, and they had a president that would sign anything that was offered by Karl Marx.”

He reminisced about his six years in the Iowa Senate and various conversations he’s had in Washington.

He told of arguing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is insignificant, and of a discussion he had with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin about global climate change. “We took it to a place where she wasn’t doing so well…and she got frustrated and she said, ‘I am a physicist and you will not believe me.’ Okay. I’m an American and I don’t pay deference to those kinds of titles. We like to look at things that are common sense.”

He talked of fighting against the Affordable Care Act with Michelle Bachman after Republican leadership was ready to stand down on the bill. They lost by one vote. “We only needed two or three or four people who were really principled people willing to put up a fight,” he said. The good thing that came from it was 87 freshmen Republicans elected in the 2010 midterm election. He called them “God’s gift to America.”

King predicted the majority in the U.S. Senate will grow between two and four seats in the 2018 election, and that the House will lose 10-12 seats but still keep the majority.

King said President Trump is “extraordinary,” but that the House has been too weak, the Senate has been too weak, and there hasn’t been enough long-term vision. “We have too many people that are concerned about their short-term political liability and they have a little trouble getting their mind on what’s important, which is moving an agenda that’s right for America.”

He said Trump has the ability “to keep a lot of plates spinning, balls in the air and kind of know where they are.” He also admires Trump’s ability to trust his instincts and make fast decisions. He used Trump’s acceptance of a meeting with South Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-ung “in an instant. He didn’t ask any advisors. Look how that’s worked out.” (Editor’s note: Kim Jong-un is from North Korea.)

“We have an enigma and a brinksmanship president and lots of good things are happening because of that,” King said.

King said he had four bills passed in the House on the same day. He said his staff sent the Des Moines Register a press release that wasn’t used. “Nope, that’s not news. News is whatever they think will inflame people, true or not. By the way, they were a little inflamed when they found out not a single Republican would interview with the editorial board in order to get their endorsement. That should say something about them.”

He said trade negotiations are moving in a better direction, including negotiations with China. “We have to give him (President Trump) the leverage to get the best deal we can get. If it hurts the most here as it does in America, then America’s in pretty good shape.”

He mentioned Scholten and his recent campaign stops with Bernie Sanders. King said Sanders told him he’s a socialist 15 years ago. “He’s proud of it. The difference between a socialist and a communist is  just that socialist is a nicer label.”

“And then we’ve got Cory Booker (D – New Jersey) who has also come here to endorse my opponent. He’s got some really bad things going for him, which includes being a confessed molester…. Also, this struggles some in meat country – he’s a vegan. A vegan. If somebody’s a vegan because that’s their preference I have nothing against it, but if it’s a political statement, then I don’t like that at all”

He said Scholten got the “max-out” check from the Humane Society of the U.S. by bringing in Booker, and that he got a check from Ben & Jerry’s (ice cream) in Wells (Blue Bunny ice cream) country.

“It’s a Nancy Pelosi vote. He’s been maxed out by Planned Parenthood. This guy’s got about everything going against him if you were going to try to conform to the values of this district,” King said.

About Thompson, King said he knows he served the county “with honor and dignity” in the military. “He put his life on the line with a sense of duty and self-sacrifice… and that’s what he’s putting himself up for now.”

King said he would support things the Republicans value: life, fiscal responsibility, the Second Amendment, “and all these values I care about.”

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