by Jason Noble | 5:15 PM, Jul 9, 2013
A newly announced candidate for the U.S. Senate told an Iowa newspaper that his African American wife would inoculate him against charges of racism by a potential political opponent.
Scott Schaben, who until recently was a car salesman in Ames, told the Carroll Daily Times Herald in a story published over the weekend that he would enter the crowded Republican field for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Tom Harkin in 2014.
He told the paper he would run as a pro-same-sex marriage, anti-abortion “common-sense conservative” and described himself as an “average guy” and “unconnected person.”
He resigned from a job at Honda of Ames to seek the seat. Four other Republicans have already entered the race, and several more are thought to be considering runs. U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, meanwhile, has all but cleared the field on the Democratic side.
In a phone interview Tuesday with the Des Moines Register, Schaben said he was inspired to run by the current composition of the GOP field, which he described as “wide open” and “without a top-tier or A-list candidate.”
“That’s the biggest motivator for me,” he said, adding, “Without a big name in the field, it’s wide open for an unknown to be able to get the nomination and in turn end up winning the election.”
Schaben reiterated that he would run as a moderate, and cited the Second Amendment, a balanced budget and support for military veterans as his top priorities.
Iowa State University assistant basketball coach Latoja Schaben, the wife of newly announced U.S. Senate candidate Scott Schaben, holds back coach Bill Fennelly after a reversed call in 2011. (Andrea Melendez/The Register)
“Being on the sales side of things, and especially selling cars, I’m in tune with the general public,” he said. “I interact with the general public on a daily basis.”
In the Times Herald story, Schaben also noted that his wife, Latoja Schaben, is African American and suggested that their marriage would prevent opponents from portraying him as a racist.
“Let’s see Bruce Braley paint me as a racist with a black wife,” Schaben said, according to the Times Herald story.
Latoja Schaben is an assistant coach for the Iowa State University women’s basketball team.
When asked by The Register about the context in which he made those comments, Schaben said Republicans are often viewed as unconcerned about racial minorities, but that that label couldn’t be applied to him.
When Schaben expressed that view during his interview with the Times Herald, he said, reporter asked if his wife was African American.
“I said, ‘yeah, she’s black, so if Bruce Braley wants to go ahead and paint me as a racist, have fun with that,’” he explained. “That’s what it was. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, come at me.’”
He continued, “Republicans are getting painted as these old, rich, white racists. I’m not old – I’m under 40. I’m not rich – I don’t have a million dollars in the bank. And I am not racist. … That’s one angle that you’re not going be able to take on me.”
Schaben said he has not begun raising money, formally organized his campaign with the Federal Elections Commission or made contact with political advisers or consultants. Those efforts all are in the works, he said.