For the fourth consecutive quarter, the Democratic challenger to Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has raised significantly more money than his opponent, and his reelection, although still likely, is looking slightly less certain than it was earlier in the year.
According to the latest filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission this week, first-time candidate J.D. Scholten’s campaign raised $661,013 during the three-month period that ended on Sept. 30 — more than four times the $161,673 reported by King’s campaign during the same period.
King’s national reputation as a strident foe of immigration has meant a bonanza for Scholten, who tweeted on Wednesday that King’s most recent outrage — endorsing Faith Goldy, an outspoken white nationalist candidate for mayor of Toronto, Canada — was “bad news for the people who have offered to donate to @Scholten4Iowa whenever @SteveKingIA says something offensive.” Even in the current political environment, King is infamous for his inflammatory rhetoric.
The ability of Scholten, a paralegal and a former minor league baseball player, to consistently outraise King, an eight-term incumbent—bringing in a total of $1.42 million compared to King’s $670,000 — has drawn unexpected attention to the race for Iowa’s deeply red fourth congressional district. Though King remains in the lead, a recent poll shows him just 10 points ahead of Scholten. In recent months, top congressional ratings sites, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the Cook Political Report, and Roll Call’s Inside Elections have all reclassified the race for King’s seat from “Safe” and “Solid” GOP wins to “Likely” Republican.
“The district remains pretty hard for a Democrat, although we do rate the race Likely Republican, meaning that King is clearly favored but there’s an outside chance of an upset,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
In a midterm election cycle where Republicans and even some Democrats are trying to align themselves with President Trump on the hot-button issue of immigration, even the small possibility of the GOP losing a seat long held by one of the most anti-immigrant voices in Congress is attracting notice.
During his eight terms in office, King has built a reputation for divisive rhetoric, largely aimed at immigrants. Well before Trump called Mexicans rapists and criminals, King had made his infamous remarks about undocumented youth crossing the border with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
In recent months, King’s has used his Twitter feed to issue expressions of support for white nationalist figures, including Goldy.
Faith Goldy, an excellent candidate for Toronto mayor, pro Rule of Law, pro Make Canada Safe Again, pro balanced budget, &…BEST of all, Pro Western Civilization and a fighter for our values. @FaithGoldy will not be silenced. https://t.co/uqkeaUjm7i
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) October 17, 2018
Republicans in Congress have been challenged to publicly disavow King’s inflammatory remarks. David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political report said that members of the GOP have distanced themselves from King by trying “to ignore his comments as much as possible.”
“King has become more of a pariah in his party as his thinking has veered from the main business before Congress into more conspiratorial, white nationalist realms,” he said.
Wasserman points to the incumbent Republican’s increasingly inflammatory behavior as “the single biggest driver of the fundraising disparity between” King and Scholten.
“The best thing going for Scholten’s fundraising has been running against Steve King,” said Wasserman, adding that Scholten “has been able to raise lots of money from Democrats around the country who consider King a racist.”
In fact, as of July, Scholten’s campaign had consistently received donations from every state in the country as well as every county in Iowa’s fourth district, historically the most conservative in the state.
Scholten is hardly the only Democrat with a surplus of campaign cash on hand, however. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Commission reported this week that more than 110 of its 2018 candidates had outraised their Republican opponents in the final period before the midterms.
DCCC spokesman Tyler Law said the recent fundraising hauls were “largely driven by small-dollar contributions.”
A spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee did not respond to a request for comment on this story. King’s campaign declined to comment, and a spokesperson for Scholten’s campaign could not be reached for comment ahead of publishing time.
Wasserman said that Scholten is “by far the best-funded Democrat [King has] faced since Christie Vilsak in 2012,” who lost by the narrowest margin of any King challenger since he was first elected in 2002. But he noted that King’s 2018 campaign war chest is not that much smaller than it was in 2016.
“It’s not a sudden development that he isn’t raising much money, that’s been true for a long time and still been able to win reelection quite comfortably,” he said. “King has typically run unconventional campaigns that have sought to appeal to Republican base more than independents or moderate voters.”
It’s unclear, however, whether this strategy will work for King this year, as the Trump administration’s tariff policies present a particular challenge for Republicans in farm states such as Iowa.
King may still be the favorite in his heavily Republican district but, Wasserman said, this race is “definitely worth watching.”
Read more Yahoo News midterms coverage: