Government

Fred Hubbell's challengers take final swing

Polling shows him ahead, but also room for surprise in June 5 primary

The five Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for governor are shown before their Wednesday evening debate in Des Moines. They are (from left) John Norris, Fred Hubbell, Ross Wilburn, Cathy Glasson and Andy McGuire. The debate was sponsored by KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register. The primary is June 5, 2018.

(photo taken May 30, 2018, by Rod Boshart/Des Moines Bureau)
The five Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for governor are shown before their Wednesday evening debate in Des Moines. They are (from left) John Norris, Fred Hubbell, Ross Wilburn, Cathy Glasson and Andy McGuire. The debate was sponsored by KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register. The primary is June 5, 2018. (photo taken May 30, 2018, by Rod Boshart/Des Moines Bureau)
/

DES MOINES — Crunchtime has arrived for the five Democrats hoping to be their party’s nominee for Iowa’s next governor — and for the voters who must make that decision.

The final, unanswered question is whether Fred Hubbell has built an insurmountable lead or if any of the other candidates can knock him off the perch that fundraising totals, public opinion polls and even the opposing Republican Party indicate he’s on.

That question will be answered when primary election results are tallied Tuesday night.

Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, is widely considered the favorite in the race. Hubbell has the most resources and has led in public polling, though there has been little of that to go on.

The four candidates hoping to catch Hubbell are Cathy Glasson, John Norris, Andy McGuire and Ross Wilburn.

The winner will face Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in November’s general election, as well as a Libertarian candidate also to be determined in Tuesday’s primary.

While polling on the Democratic gubernatorial primary shows Hubbell in the lead, it also shows the potential for movement. A large share of respondents in the highly regarded Iowa Poll, sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Mediacom, said they remained undecided. And a large portion said they could be persuaded to change their vote.

To complicate matters, the polling was conducted before another popular candidate among Democrats left the race.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Nate Boulton, a Des Moines lawyer and state legislator, suspended his campaign after three women in a Des Moines Register report made allegations against him of past sexual misconduct.

“I will quote Matt Paul (an Iowa Democratic campaign veteran). He said strange things can happen. So I’m inclined to trust a campaign operative and say our data would suggest that strange things can happen,” said Ann Selzer, who runs the Iowa Poll, during recording of this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television. But “if you look just at the numbers, you would have to say that Fred Hubbell has the advantage.”

The Democratic gubernatorial candidates have spent the campaign’s final weekend holding events across the state to make their closing arguments to voters.

Glasson, Hubbell and Norris, for instance, all scheduled events for this weekend in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids.

Hubbell has focused on Democrat-rich Eastern Iowa: Of the 10 events he was scheduled to hold Friday through Sunday, eight were in the region before finishing the swing in Des Moines.

Glasson, a nurse and labor leader from Coralville, also barnstormed Eastern Iowa. Her scheduled events Friday, Sunday and Monday all were in Eastern Iowa; she was set to hold a trio of events Saturday in Central Iowa.

Norris, a veteran Democratic aide with experience working for former Gov. Tom Vilsack and former President Barack Obama, also scheduled a majority of his final campaign in Eastern Iowa, but also slated events for Boone and Albia.

McGuire, a physician and former state party leader from Des Moines, worked the western and central portions of Iowa, making stops in Sioux City, Albia and Panora before finishing in Waterloo, her hometown.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

For every candidate not named Fred Hubbell, the challenge is convincing enough Democratic voters that he or she is best-equipped to face Reynolds in the fall.

“They just need to find a way to create some buzz and break out in the final few days to where people see them as a clear alternative to Fred Hubbell, because there’s a decent chunk of the party that’s a little skeptical about Hubbell and his chances in the general election,” said Pat Rynard, a former Democratic campaign aide who publishes the Iowa political news website Iowa Starting Line. “I think the best hope for a Norris or Glasson or McGuire is to prove to most folks they actually have the best shot of surpassing (Hubbell) and winning.”

Another factor that could tip the scales: What becomes of the voters who planned to support Boulton? Some surely cast early votes, which cannot be changed. But the remaining candidates hope to siphon as many former Boulton supporters as possible.

Selzer said her polling showed Hubbell was in the best position to pick up Boulton voters. She said when the poll asked which candidate do voters believe has the best chance to defeat Reynolds, the vast majority said their preferred candidate first, but the second most commonly named was Hubbell.

“That was especially true in Nate Boulton. There was no candidate whose second place was a stronger show than Nate Boulton’s supporters saying Fred Hubbell stood a better chance,” Selzer said. “So when we looked across the data after Nate Boulton suspended his campaign, we thought that according to the data that day, at the time that that poll was taken, the news would favor Fred Hubbell.”

Selzer added the caveat that when a popular candidate like Boulton drops out of a race, that can shake voters’ minds and force many to reevaluate their choices.

The possibility also remains that none of the five candidates gets 35 percent of the vote, which by state law would negate the results and send the nomination to a state party convention, where activists would pick the nominee.

But experts said that seems less likely than it did earlier, especially after Boulton’s exit.

“It would take an odd set of circumstances for it to break out to where no one would get to 35 percent,” Rynard said. “It’s possible, but very unlikely.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Despite Hubbell’s apparent command of the race, the other candidates did little to challenge his positions during the final primary debate this past week in Des Moines.

The only challenge during the debate came from Norris, who expressed concern that Hubbell could be viewed as flipping his stance on the tax cuts signed into law this past week. The state income tax cuts were designed and approved by Reynolds and the GOP-led Legislature.

Hubbell during the second debate in mid-May stopped short of saying he would completely repeal the tax cuts. He said during the third and final debate that he would have vetoed the bill, but now that it is in state law he would want to keep some elements and remove others.

Norris more pointedly criticized Hubbell after the debate while speaking to reporters.

Hubbell “spent his life focusing on corporate profits and I’ve spent my life focusing on helping people,” Norris said. “I didn’t want to go too direct at him and criticize his life and what he has spent his life doing, but I think it’s important for Iowans to know. Do you want someone who spent their life working for people in public service, or someone who in their retirement decided to come out of that corporate world to make sure that we have corporate influence in the government, which I don’t think we need.”

Hubbell’s campaign responded by noting he has served not only in private capacities, but also in public and advocacy roles.

“Whether it was serving as chair of Planned Parenthood, or stepping into state government to help clean up the film tax credit scandal, or helping expand mental health services at Broadlawns Medical Center, Fred has dedicated his life to serving his community,” Hubbell campaign spokeswoman Remi Yamamoto said. “As governor, Fred will continue that record by restoring the people-first priorities and investments in education and health care that Iowans deserve.”

Glasson has consistently described herself as the most bold and progressive candidate in the field. Among her campaign staples are calling for universal, single-payer health care and a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Perhaps in an effort to create the buzz to which Rynard alluded, Glasson during Wednesday’s debate said she would support legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Iowa and taxing its sale.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“There are really a lot of new voters involved in our campaign,” she told reporters afterward, adding she hopes to be “getting them excited to make sure that they vote and get out en masse on June 5 and win this outright.”

Rod Boshart of The Gazette contributed to this report.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.