JOHNSTON — Could a Democrat be the first political beneficiary of a new state law proposed and approved by Republicans?
J.D. Scholten, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Steve King in the 4th Congressional District, is counting on it.
Scholten said many 4th District Republicans in the past voted straight party ballots but now must make a choice in every race.
So some, he said Friday during the taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press,” may not vote for King.
Some Republicans, he said, may be thinking “I can no longer consciously vote for Steve King.”
“And so now, with straight ticket off, they’re going to have to see his name and make that decision,” he said. “And I see that getting into a lot of people’s heads.”
King, 69, of Kiron, typically wins re-election by double-digit margins, but some polling in the 4th District shows newcomer Scholten, 38, of Sioux City, running closer to him than previous Democratic candidates.
King periodically comes under fire for comments that align with themes of white nationalism, and he has faced criticism from his own party this year for remarks on immigration.
The 4th District, which covers western and parts of Northern Iowa, has roughly 70,000 more active Republican voters than Democrats.
Scholten said his appeal as a candidate is that he will “show up” and fight for the district. He pointed to previous federal officeholders from Iowa who had bipartisan appeal, like Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrats Tom Harkin and Berkley Bedell.
“I came to the idea that if you got out to the people and you prove that you’re trustworthy and prove that you’re going to fight for the people of your district, you’re going to earn votes,” Scholten said. “And that is what we have been doing for the last 16 months.”
The Republican-led Iowa Legislature got rid of straight-party voting, which former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law.
Iowa voters now must pick candidates individually instead of checking just one box atop the ballot to votes for all candidates from one political party.
Straight-ticket voting was popular, with one in three Iowa voters voting a straight party ticket in 2016, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. More Republicans than Democrats voted straight ticket in 2016 and 2014, the office said.
In the 4th District in 2016, 231,229 people voted for Donald Trump for president and 226,719 voted for King, roughly 2 percent fewer.
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“Iowa Press” can be seen on Iowa Public Television at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday. It also will air on IPTV World at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and is online at IPTV.org.
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