Today, The Journal editorial board endorses the candidacy of Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten over incumbent Republican Steve King in the race for the U.S. House seat in Iowa's 4th District.
Those were not easy words for us to write.
In prior endorsements of King, an eight-term representative, we laid out what we respect and admire about our congressman. He is an honest, principled family man who we acknowledge reflects in his votes the positions of many, if not most 4th District constituents.
In spite of the criticisms we also shared in those endorsements, we believed King's strengths were enough to make him a better choice for this district than the Democratic challengers he faced in past elections.
In Scholten, however, King runs against an opponent with many strengths of his own.
Bright, articulate, personable, possessed of deep roots in this district, informed about issues important to the 4th like agriculture, and armed with a willingness to consider all sides of complex issues such as illegal immigration and work across the aisle to identify solutions to problems, Scholten offers appeal for not only Democrats, but independents and Republicans, as well, we believe.
With a candidate of Scholten's caliber on the ballot, we decided we wouldn't overlook, again, the concerns we have shared about King in the past in making an endorsement in this race this year.
We say nothing about King today we haven't said before. Time and again in this space, we have criticized him for what we view as inflammatory or questionable comments and expressed concern about the impact of those comments on our district. Each time King immerses himself in controversy, he holds up this district to ridicule and marginalizes himself within the legislative body he serves, neither of which provides benefit to Iowans who live and work here.
For example, King earlier this month put himself - and, by extension, the rest of the district - in an unflattering spotlight with a tweet in support of a candidate for mayor of Toronto described in published reports as a "white nationalist" or "white supremacist." That wasn't the first time King was tied, by his words or actions, to such intolerant ugliness.
In addition, we don't view King as someone who is at all interested in reaching across the aisle to find common ground on immensely complex issues, like illegal immigration. (We want border security too, for example, but we do not believe it is either possible or practical to identify, locate and arrest or deport every individual who entered this country illegally, many of whom hold jobs important to our domestic economy.) Our point is this: We believe compromise achieved by listening and talking to one another is the only way we as a nation will effectively navigate the multiple challenges of illegal immigration.
As we have said before, we would prefer King spend less time trying to "save" Western civilization and making a national name for himself as a conservative leader trying to move the nation to the political right. We would rather he commit to becoming, say, a more influential congressional leader in agriculture.
Finally, we have used this space on multiple occasions to criticize King for not debating opponents and not hosting more public town halls, both of which speak to constituent accountability, but we have seen little to no inclination on his part during this campaign to change.
We aren't suggesting Scholten is a perfect candidate with whom we have no disagreements, but we believe the job of U.S. representative is more than casting votes. As a congressman, we believe Scholten would choose his words carefully, create no national controversies, bring no embarrassment to the district, seek to unite and not divide, focus his time and energy almost exclusively on issues directly impacting the lives and livelihoods of constituents, and hold regular town halls with the public. He represents changes we believe speak to the best interests of this congressional district as a whole.
King is the favorite and ahead in polls. If he wins re-election, we hope he considers the words we have written today.
If underdog Scholten springs an upset, we hope he remembers this remains largely a conservative, Republican district and we urge him to take accordingly moderate positions on issues of the day. Bottom line: We are ready and willing to give him the opportunity to show all of us in the 4th what he can do.