J.D. Scholten: Lack of national COVID-19 plan prolonging virus spread

Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten is interviewed by a panel of journalists on Oct. 2, 2020. (Screenshot of Iowa PBS livestream.)

Democratic congressional candidate J.D. Scholten stopped short of supporting a federal mask mandate, but said he believes there should be a COVID-19 “national plan.” 

Scholten said Friday his prayers go out to President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump after it was announced they both tested positive for COVID-19. He said the president’s positive diagnosis shows that anyone is able to contract the virus.

“I’m hoping to the people who still are fighting masks and different things like that, I hope it raises the awareness of that and shows, the CDC and experts say we’re eight weeks away at any single point from getting over this and getting over the hump like most countries have done,” Scholten said. He spoke during a taping of Iowa Press” airing this weekend.

Asked whether he would support a national mask mandate, Scholten said: “I think there should be a national plan. We were all willing to commit in March to stay home and there was never that next step. And so we have this one foot in, one foot out approach that just continues to prolong it.”

Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten is interviewed by a panel of journalists on Oct. 2, 2020. (Screenshot of Iowa Press airing.)

Scholten is the Democratic challenger for Iowa’s 4th District seat. He is up against Republican Randy Feenstra, who usurped longtime incumbent Steve King in an unusual primary defeat.

While Iowa Democrats and Republicans in all of the other congressional races agreed to debates on Iowa Press, Feenstra declined, resulting in Scholten being the sole candidate for a 30-minute segment on the show instead.

Trying to win a Republican-dominated district

Though Scholten lost his last congressional bid against King in 2018, the narrow margins between the candidates were enough for people to take notice. The northwest Iowa district is known for its conservative values.

When Scholten last ran in 2018 against King, he was about 10,000 votes away from defeating the Republican incumbent. This is in a district that currently has a 77,000 registered Republican voter advantage over Democrats.

Even without King and his national-attention grabbing headlines, Scholten said he believes his campaign still has “crossover” appeal.

He said he doesn’t regret not running for U.S. Senate and that he has “unfinished business” in Iowa’s 4th District.

“We feel we match up against Feenstra better than we did against King,” Scholten said. “King, with all the controversy, if you take that aside which isn’t easy to do, but when you do you have an anti-establishment person and our campaign is very grassroots campaign and anti-establishment.” 

“We turned down even the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s) money and their help in the campaign. We want this race to be run out of Sioux City, Iowa, and not Washington, D.C.,” Scholten said.

Expanding broadband internet in Iowa’s 4th District

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the disparities rural Iowans face when it comes to internet access, particularly as families navigate online classes or more virtual job requirements.

There are grants available for funding. But Scholten said when he’s visited with telecom companies and co-ops about expanding broadband internet, there is “confusion” because there isn’t a central place to apply for them.

He said he supports creating one system where people can apply for grant money for expanded broadband internet.

“One of the biggest issues is you have these huge companies that oversee it and they are pricing out these small local guys who know how to do it,” Scholten said. “And so we need to include these local broadband and these local rural telecom co-ops.”

Linh Ta
Reporter Linh Ta comes to Iowa Capital Dispatch from the Des Moines Register, where she covered trending news, public safety and the suburbs. Most recently, she has covered retail business and followed both national and local trends to provide insight about the issues that matter the most to Iowans. Beyond traditional journalism, Ta has worked as a speech coach with the Des Moines Storytellers Project with the goal of sharing the diverse perspectives of Iowans from all walks of life. She is the 2019 winner of the Young Iowa Journalist Award and the winner of an Iowa Broadcast News Award. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @linhmaita.