SIOUX CITY -- Former Sioux City Explorers player J.D. Scholten scored a decisive win Tuesday, sending the Sioux City Democrat to a matchup with eight-term Republican Rep. Steve King.
With about 60 precincts in Iowa 4th District reporting, Scholten had nearly 50 percent of the vote. Spencer City Councilwoman Leann Jacobsen was second with 36 percent, while Ames physician John Paschen trailed with 20 percent.
Scholten dominated in his home turf, taking 67 percent of the vote in Woodbury County, home to Sioux City, the district's largest city.
The 4th District is largest of the state's four congressional districts, covering 39 counties in Northwest and North Central Iowa, where Republicans heavily predominate. In the most recent voter registration totals from June, there were 188,334 Republicans and 116,129 Democrats.
For the second straight election cycle, King faced a challenge from within his own party. In early returns Tuesday, the Republican from Kiron nabbed 74 percent of the vote, compared to 26 percent for Cyndi Hanson, a college administrator from Sioux City.
King, who won his first House seat in 2002, turned up early to cast a ballot in the tiny Sac County town of Odebolt, eventually gesturing in front of a closed door that the 7 a.m. time for voting had arrived.
In a phone interview, after returning to Washington Tuesday night, King said he owed his apparent win to people recognizing his work as their representative. He added that people like how the state is sitting in 2018.
"We just went out and did our work," King said. "The voters came out and rewarded that. I've long had a presence as a full-spectrum conservative."
Scholten's camp organized an election watch party at Bob Roe's Point After in Sioux City. In a reserved section of the sports bar, more than 60 loyalists awaited for Scholten to speak to the group around 11 p.m.
Scholten said he pushed hard by campaigning “non-stop the last month.”
“Tonight, we are closing on Phase One,” he told the cheering crowd.
Gary Davis, of Sioux City, said he's supported Scholten for year.
"I’m hoping that he actually gets something done in District Four because I don’t believe that Steve King has done anything in 16 years," Davis said. Scholten "goes out and listens to everyone and wants to get better pay for people, better healthcare and he wants to help reach everyone in the Fourth District."
Scholten outraised King and his Democratic opponents, scoring campaign cash from Democrats around the country who have become disenchanted with King's comments on immigration, abortion and other issues. In the most recent reports filed in April, Scholten had $271,098 in cash on hand as of March 31, while King had $76,034. Jacobsen had $64,713 and Paschen had $54,666.
Scholten wrapped up endorsements from some national congressmen and many Democratic elected officials in the 4th District. Additionally, several county party chairman and chairwomen in the 4th District, who often stay neutral, publicly threw their support for Scholten.
Scholten, 38, of Sioux City, over the last month made campaign stops in a recreational vehicle, which he has dubbed the Sioux City Sue, in honor of the song made famous by Gene Autry. He is a former professional baseball pitcher in independent leagues and later became a paralegal, in positions with law firms in Minneapolis and Seattle before moving back to his hometown.
Jacobsen, 55, is a first-term Spencer city councilwoman. Paschen, 58, is a doctor for the McFarland Clinic system, after moving to Ames in 1990.
The Democrats spoke heavily about the issues of health care, education and renewal energy.
Hanson, 45, positioned herself to the moderate side of King, also saying people want more turnover in elected positions and a move away from "career politicians."
Hanson raised a scant amount of money, and King had a benefit in huge name recognition factor, given his large number of times being in a national news cycle for controversial comments on immigrants and other topics.
King had another primary opponent in 2016, when he defeated state Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City. Bertrand contended the congressman was ineffective and that Republicans were ready to flock to his campaign, then got 35 percent of the vote.
When the November election arrives, there will be one other candidate beyond the Republican and Democratic nominees, as Charles Aldrich, of Clarion, is running from the Libertarian Party.