SIOUX CITY -- State Sen. David Johnson left his Republican Party affiliation to become an independent, and now he has endorsed the Democrat in the Iowa 4th congressional district race.
Johnson on Thursday said he understands Republicans don't like his changing views on politics, but said he can do no other in an era when President Donald Trump runs roughshod on political norms and U.S. Rep. Steve King and other conservatives turn a blind eye.
Therefore, as first announced at a Dickinson County Democratic Party event in Arnolds Park with 300 people on Wednesday, Johnson has endorsed J.D. Scholten, a Democrat from Sioux City, for the Fourth District seat.
"A Congressman Scholten will stand up to President Trump and a Congressman Scholten will not race-bait, which is a current trend of our president and our current congressman," Johnson said in an interview.
"Steve King needs to set his Confederate flag in his back pocket and go back to Kiron."
That was a reference to the flag that King kept on his congressional desk a few years ago.
Johnson, who lives in Ocheyedan, in May changed his plans to seek re-election as an independent in the heavily Republican Iowa Senate District 1. He said he knows Iowa Republicans don't like his changed outlook: "It doesn't bother me, because I know I am right."
He said Scholten possesses an earnestness to do the right thing "for the working people in Iowa." Johnson said Scholten also understands the necessity of having broad public access, noting that King in recent years has stopped holding publicized town hall meetings.
"J.D. Scholten will not run with the likes (Ohio Congressman) Jim Jordan, (Freedom Caucus Chairman) Mark Meadows, (Texas Congressman) Louie Gohmert and other House extremists like Steve King does," the state senator said.
Johnson also predicted the blue wave that some trends are showing as beneficial for Democrats nationally will play out with the party retaking control of the U.S. House in November. He said it would be better for the 4th District in that scenario to have a Democrat holding the seat.
Johnson said he'll campaign at times for Scholten, "to help spread the message that we can do a lot better."
This marks two election cycles in a row where Johnson has opposed King. There was a Republican primary for King's seat in 2016, and Johnson favored the challenger, state Sen. Rick Bertrand, of Sioux City.
"I had high hopes that Senator Bertrand would try, and he never did," Johnson said.
After changing his party registration to No Party, Johnson became the first independent to serve in the Senate since 1926. Johnson announced he was leaving the Republican Party in June 2016, as Trump moved closer to becoming the party's nominee.
Two months after that, a staff member of King, Zach Whiting, announced his candidacy for the 2018 senate seat even before the 2016 election was held. Whiting is now running unopposed for the Senate District 1 seat.