Steve King challenger: 2020 Democrats have 'huge' opportunity to win over rural America

J.D. Scholten, a Democratic congressional candidate in Iowa, asserted Tuesday that there is a huge opportunity for 2020 Democrats to win over votes in rural America, particularly when it comes to issues like health care.

Scholten noted that Americans who live in rural areas struggle even to get access to medical care. According to the Sheps Center for Health Services Research, 162 rural hospitals have closed since 2005.

“The first thing is health care,” Scholten said. “Everyone is struggling with that in my district — the second-most agriculture-producing district in America and as such a rural district we have hospitals consolidating.” 

“Farmers — they don’t have employer health insurance,” he added. 

Scholten has publicly advocated for a universal health care approach with a gradual shift to "Medicare for all."

Health care has been a top issue in the Democratic presidential primary as candidates remain split over what shape the U.S. health care system should take.

Progressive Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (I-Vt.) have backed Medicare for All, which would effectively do away with private insurance in favor of a government-run health care system.

Meanwhile, centrist candidates like former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE have instead expressed their support for expanding the existing health care system under the Affordable Care Act that was put in place during the Obama administration.

Scholten is currently running against Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingMother of child in viral meme sends Steve King cease-and-desist for using image in fundraising Nebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response MORE (R-Iowa) in Iowa’s 4th congressional district.

This marks his second bid against the nine-term incumbent after losing by just three percentage points in what is considered a heavily conservative district. The Iowa Democrat said he remains confident about his ability to defeat King should the Republican become the nominee.

“At a time right now in our district, in the second most agriculture-producing district in America, and we have 55,000 farmers with their backs against the wall, we need a leader in Washington,” he told Hill.TV.

Republican House leadership stripped King of all of committee assignments last year following a firestorm over remarks that sparked bipartisan condemnation. In an interview with the New York Times, King questioned why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were considered offensive.

King has also faced criticism for doubling down on his assertion that rape and incest shouldn’t be factored into decisions concerning abortion.

In response to these comments, several House Republicans have sought to distance themselves from him, even throwing their support behind one of his Republican contenders, Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — House to condemn Trump plan for Medicaid block grants | Chinese doctor who warned of coronavirus dies | CDC ships coronavirus tests GOP lawmaker shreds Democratic resolution on House floor Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE (R-Iowa).

—Tess Bonn