Steve King Refuses to Debate Scholten, Saying “There’s Not a Clear Division on Issues”

The congressman made his remarks just before a new poll was released showing his Democratic challenger "within striking distance" in the deep-red 4th District

Last Friday, Steve King’s Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten released a video on YouTube calling on the congressman to debate him. Holding a basketball, Scholten said, “The ball’s in your court,” before turning around and sinking a shot.

Over the weekend, Sioux City TV station KTIV asked King — who has generally not agreed to debate opponents in the past — about the challenge, which he claimed he hadn’t seen. But he suggested that he wouldn’t likely agree to one.

“If there’s not a clear division on issues here, then, you know, if nobody’s criticizing the way I vote, then they just call names and I don’t think that’s a very good reason to have a debate,” said King, whose Facebook campaign page regularly mocks liberals. King himself recently likened “leftists” to Nazis (who in reality were far-right fascists).

One reason for why King is unwilling to debate Scholten may be that the challenger actually has an outside chance of winning the race. Scholten has repeatedly outraised King and leading election analysts have moved the race from solid to likely Republican. And on Monday, Boston-based Emerson Polling tweeted the results of a recent poll showing King up 41 percent to Scholten’s 31 percent, with 16 percent of voters remaining undecided. “Shocker in #IA04 as #Democrats within striking distance,” the tweet read.

In 2012, Steve King agreed to debate Democratic rival Christie Vilsack in the newly redrawn 4th District. He also previously debated Jim Mowrer in 2014. In 2016, he debated GOP primary challenger Rick Bertrand before refusing to debate Democrat Kim Weaver in the general. King went on to defeat Weaver by over 20 points.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.