SIOUX CITY, IOWA—J. D. Scholten is back for round two.
The 39-year-old former baseball player announced early this morning—in a dreamy, nostalgia-laced video narrated by the Field of Dreams actor Kevin Costner—that he’s running for Representative Steve King’s congressional seat in Northwest Iowa. Scholten has tried this before: In last year’s midterms, the Democrat proved capable competition for King—a Republican whose name, for many Americans, has become synonymous with racism and xenophobia—by driving to every corner of the district in his Winnebago, called Sioux City Sue, and aggressively courting voters. Scholten ultimately lost by a thin 3 percent margin, the closest race King has ever had.
“We almost did it,” Scholten told me in an interview before his announcement, noting that he performed 24 points better against King in the district than Hillary Clinton did against Donald Trump in 2016. Scholten is running again, he said, to address this “unfinished business.” And when he does, he’ll have the power of his party behind him: Nothing would give the Democrats more pleasure than ousting King and flipping Iowa’s last red congressional district blue.
But this time around, circumstances will be different. Institutional support for King has waned somewhat in the heavily Republican district, and the congressman has attracted at least three viable Republican challengers, none of whom appears to share his penchant for nativism. If one of them beats King for their party’s nomination, it’s likely to kill Scholten’s chances in the general election. Put another way: It would take nothing short of a miracle for a Democrat to beat a Republican here in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District. Scholten could be that Democrat—as long as King is that Republican.