Democratic 4th congressional district candidates hold forum in the MU


Memorial Union Placeholder Stock Photo

Devyn Leeson

Democratic candidates for Iowa’s fourth congressional district spoke at a forum hosted by Iowa State University Democrats.

The candidates consisted of Leann Jacobsen of Spencer, John Paschen of Ames, and J.D. Scholten of Sioux City. These candidates will face off in a primary election being held on June 5, 2018.

Advertising the primary date is especially important this year, said Iowa State University College Democrats President Mara Kealy. This last year the state passed a voter ID law that affects the dates that people can vote early.

Kealy says that shortening the early voting period by 10 days makes it so early voting can’t start until May 6, three days after the last day of school.

“In the past there has been a full week where college students could vote early before school ended,” Kealy said.

For more information on voting in your area and updated information on voter ID laws, visit The League of Women Voters website.

The forum started with opening statements from the candidates.

First was Leann Jacobsen who described herself as a small business owner and member of her city council. When Jacobsen was raising a kid and working at AT&T, she says she decided to picket with her union for a livable wage. Eventually she moved up the corporate ladder until she was vice president of state government affairs. Now she has started numerous places for her community and created a place that is welcoming for anyone to raise their children.

For this reason, she says that small towns and small town values are what she wants to uphold with her campaign.

Next was John Paschen, a pediatrician in Ames. He described the next election as a bellwether election – an election that sets trends or the course of a nation.

“Will we be a country that turns people away who need medical care?” Paschen asked. “Or will we be a country that feels that health care is a right for everyone? Will we build a wall against our Mexican neighbors, or will we welcome immigrants to revitalize our country? Will we sit around as a country as our children fear for their lives in school or will we pass common sense gun laws. Our values are at stake.”

The final candidate to give opening comments was J.D. Scholten, a paralegal from Spencer. Scholten focused his opening comments on his successes on the campaign trail. With only 40 days until the primary, Scholten believes that the most viable candidate to beat Steve King should be the one that moves forward.

“I plan to drive more miles than him and I plan to shake more hands than him,” Scholten said. “I will outwork him.”

Scholten cited his recent fundraising efforts saying that he had out-raised Steve King two to one in the last quarter and beat him by tens of thousands of dollars in the quarter before that.

He then compared himself to the other candidates on stage saying his campaign was the only one to have an office and that he is the only one of them to be endorsed by either a union or a current member of congress.

When it came to the issues, the candidates mostly agreed but they did differ in some ways.

On student debt and education, Jacobson proposed making college less of a burden for communities. To do this, she proposed loan forgiveness for more skills, especially for those working in rural communities.

Paschen said that while four year college isn’t for everyone, there should be federally funded, tuition free community college, and Scholten said he agreed with the others but would add that Congress needs to focus on well paying jobs too.

When it came to the gun debate they were all in agreement that their needs to be “common sense” gun laws. Things like the banning of high capacity magazine, bump stocks and even assault rifles were mentioned.

They also all agreed that the gun debate shouldn’t be about having your rights stripped from you or having your guns, but rather there is room for both.

“I don’t want to take the guns away from the NRA; I want to take the NRA out of Washington,” said Scholten, who said that money in politics was the issue.

The candidates continued to discuss issues related to farming, criminal justice and refugees.

On all of these issues, Jacobson pointed out that Steve King is “out of touch with his district” on those topics.

More specifically, she said that Steve King has been anti-farmer over his eight terms in office and that he didn’t care for either criminal justice reform or refugees despite both of the issues being opportunities to improve the state.

Healthcare was one issue the crowd was very nervous for in light of the recent national debate on the issue.

All of the candidates agreed that healthcare is a right for all and that costs needed to be negotiable.

“Drugs are made here and researched here, but in Europe they get the drugs from us and at the same time they are cheaper because they are negotiable over there,” Paschen said.

He continued, “Single payer, public option, Medicare for all: we need something. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”

As the final statements closed, the candidates were asked if there was any one issue they were unwilling to budge on, even if it meant losing their campaign.

Scholten started by saying that the one issue that he would never budge on was getting money out of politics. He said he would push to overturn citizens united and that would be step one in getting things down in Congress.

“The median age of a member in the house is 57 and their income typically sits at about $1 million,” Scholten said. “Well, I am about 20 years younger and a million dollars shy. I can’t be bought.”

During his closing statements, Paschen said that he might lose for standing up for this in “Steve King territory,” but he would never support a border wall.

He also said that common sense gun regulations like assault rifle bans and background checks are both things he would never budge on.

Finally, Jacobson said she would never back down from helping the small town Iowan.

“No one has held Steve King accountable for doing nothing for Iowa,” Jacobson said. “Let’s talk about people and peoples lives. People who are working two to three jobs to get by, those people don’t care about Steve King’s insults and tweets, they care about being able to buy groceries. I will never let them down.”