SIOUX CITY, Iowa — J.D. Scholten, a lanky Democrat from northwest Iowa, is frustrated — albeit in a polite, Midwestern kind of way.
Why wouldn’t he be? In November, the 38 -year-old former paralegal and minor-league pitcher fought white supremacist Rep. Steve King( R-Iowa) to within inches of the incumbent’s political life.
Scholten, who drove his RV, “Sioux City Sue, ” to all 39 counties that comprise Iowa’s vast, rural 4th U.S. House seat, came within 3 percentage points of winning in a district Donald Trump won by 27 points two years earlier and where King was used to cruising to victory.
Just two months later, King’s career is on the ropes following recent remarks to The New York Times questioning why the terms “white supremacist” or “white nationalist” are “offensive.” House Republican, who previously ignored King’s racism and relentless bashing of undocumented immigrants, have stripped him of his committee assignings. And state Sen. Randy Feenstra has already proclaimed his intention to challenge King in the 2020 GOP primary.
“I’m appreciative of the Republicans who are stepping up and saying this is unacceptable, but on the flip side I’m extremely frustrated because[ King] said the same damn thing in October, ” Scholten told HuffPost in an interview in Sioux City on Saturday.
HuffPost caught up with Scholten over coffee just hours before he was due to host Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand( D-N.Y .) during her inaugural presidential campaign swinging. He discussed the “opportunism” of King’s new GOP critics, his future schemes and why he thinks Democrat need to pay greater attention to the economic fights of rural communities.
Below is a softly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.