By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. John Paschen believes that if Democratic primary voters give him the chance to go one-on-one against Congressman Steve King, he can beat King in the general election in November.
“This campaign is about values,” Paschen said. “What do voters value? I’ll put the things I value up against the things Steve King values any day.”
Paschen, a pediatrician from Ames, is one of three Democrats whose names will be on the primary ballot on June 5, vying for the opportunity to unseat King in Iowa’s Fourth U.S. Congressional District.
Paschen stopped by the offices at the Press Thursday before meeting with Floyd County Democrats at the NIACC building in Charles City. He said that his years of experience in the medical field make him well-prepared to tackle an issue that is important to all Iowans — health care.
“I see it all the time in my practice — parents who have trouble getting insurance, or their insurance isn’t enough, or their child has severe issues and their insurance is being taken away from them,” Paschen said.
“As I’ve gone along and campaigned, I’ve realized that my focus is really about children’s issues, young adults and young families. This is what I know, this is what I care about, this is what I’m focusing on.”
The two other Democratic candidates in the June primary are LeAnn Jacobson, a businesswoman, former lobbyist and city councilwoman from Spencer; and J.D. Scholten, a paralegal and former baseball player from Ames.
“I think we all bring something to the race. I have a lot of respect for the other candidates,” said Paschen. “What I bring to the table is my life experience, my maturity and my knowledge of medicine.”
Health care is a concern that crosses party lines, according to Paschen.
“I think health care issues will continue to be important to all the voters, and I think we need to work on that aggressively,” he said. “With my background in medicine, I think I can do that better than the other two candidates.”
Paschen graduated from Camanche High School and attended Iowa State University, where he majored in animal science. He eventually changed majors to pre-medicine. He went to medical school at the University of Iowa and had his residency and training in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.
Paschen and his wife, Cynthia, then returned to Iowa to raise their family, and he is currently a general pediatrician at the McFarland Clinic in Ames. This is Paschen’s first run for public office.
“There are always things that kind of push you over the edge,” he said. “The thing that pushed me over the edge was Steve King getting on national television and saying that we should cut the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program to build a southern wall. After that, I said I’ve got to get into this.”
King, a Republican from Denison, has served in the U.S. Congress since 2002 and served in state politics for six years before that.
“He makes statements that are, frankly, racist,” Paschen said of King. “And it’s as if he has no knowledge of the economic issues associated with the 4th District.”
Despite King’s polarizing comments, Paschen acknowledged that he has been unbeatable in elections.
“I honestly feel that the reason that the good people of the 4th District keep electing him is they feel he believes what he’s saying,” Paschen said. “He’s not going to change what he’s saying because some consultant tells him to. He’s going to say what he feels, and I think voters appreciate that.”
Paschen said that he’s prepared to make a case for those votes.
“I’ll put up my beliefs against his any day of the week. I’ll put up my integrity against his any day of the week,” he said. “I have strong beliefs, too.”
King defeated former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack by eight percentage points in 2012, and that stands as his most competitive election campaign. With the exception of that race, he has won by at least 21 percentage points in each of his reelection bids — in 2010, the margin was 34 points.
“The Christie Vilsack race is really a good example of how money is not going to buy this district. She raised over $3 million, she had name recognition, she had a great organization. She still lost.”
In 2014, Democratic nominee Jim Mowrer outraised King financially and still lost the general election by a wide margin.
Paschen points to recent examples of elections around the country, where Democrats have performed much better than they have historically, as a reason for optimism.
“This is a different time,” he said. “Trump is just shooting himself in the foot, left and right, and Steve King is a big supporter of him.”
There’s a chance, however slim, that King’s name won’t be on the ballot at all in November. Dr. Cyndi Hanson of Sioux City is challenging King in the June 5 Republican Primary. The thought of having two physicians on the general election ballot was agreeable to Paschen.
“She seems so much more reasonable than Steve King,” said Paschen. “She seems like a true moderate Republican. It would be fun to run against her.”