Twice this month Iowa political reporters have attended news conferences to hear people say they are not running for office.
J.D. Scholten, the Democrats’ David who almost slew Republican Goliath U.S. Rep. Steve King, this week gathered reporters at the Iowa Capitol for a news conference, the topic of which he did not divulge in advance.
The political beasts that they are, Iowa reporters wondered what office Scholten might be seeking.
Is he announcing another run against King in the 4th Congressional District?
Is he going to run for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst?
The answer was none of the above.
Scholten announced he is forming a nonprofit organization to educate low-income Iowa workers about state and federal income tax credits that could help boost their bottom line. Scholten said many workers are not aware of the tax credits and are leaving money on the table that could otherwise help them pay for necessities like groceries and utilities.
Like Tom Steyer before him, Scholten gathered Iowa reporters to tell them not that he’s running for office, but that he is going to devote his time to a passion project on a public issue.
Steyer, the California billionaire Democrat, earlier this month called a news conference in downtown Des Moines to announce he will not run for president and instead focus on his organization, which is drumming up support to impeach President Donald Trump.
Of course, Scholten also said he has not ruled out any future campaign. He insisted he is, for the time being, focused on his Working Hero Iowa campaign on the income tax credits — but he also said he is leaving the door open.
This is not to question Scholten’s sincerity about the Working Hero Iowa campaign. But with everything like this — especially in Iowa — there is a political element. And the campaign could very much help Scholten if he decides down the road to put his name on the ballot again.
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Scholten said he will hold Working Hero Iowa events across the state. He described it as similar to a campaign, in that he’ll be working to drum up grass roots support and volunteers to the cause. He wants to raise awareness through these public events and earned media.
All of those things would help the program’s cause. They also would help Scholten’s cause, politically speaking. If he does run for office again, in the interim he could spend his time in worse ways than barnstorming the state, talking to Iowans about a working-class issue, creating a statewide network of contacts and making the occasional media appearance.
Whether Scholten will run for the Senate in 2020 — or any other office — remains to be seen. But in the meantime, he is keeping the brand alive.
More presidential hopefuls
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg this week announced they are entering the ever-growing field of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for president.
And both are preparing their first Iowa trips.
Harris will participate in a CNN-hosted town hall on Monday at Drake University in Des Moines.
(Shameless plug: if you tune into CNN early, say around 3 p.m. for “The Lead” with Jake Tapper, you may see me.)
Buttigieg is planning a trip to Iowa next weekend, his campaign said.
The Iowa Legislature’s 2019 session is official: This week we saw a bill pertaining to Iowa’s bottle deposit law and another on traffic cameras.
File this under “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and state government. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.