With Gov. Terry Branstad soon departing, race is quickly heating up

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Very soon, Terry Branstad will no longer be Iowa’s governor, turning over the reins to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds when he resigns to become ambassador to China.

The race to replace his replacement at the end of his term in 2018 is very much heating up.

(Remember a few weeks ago in this space when I said I was ready to enjoy the first slow time without a legislative session or election campaign? Clearly I forgot to knock on wood.)

Reynolds has not made any guarantees for what happens after she finishes Branstad’s term, but it would be difficult to envision her not running for a full term. And people are lining up — on both sides of the political aisle — to oppose her.

Ron Corbett, the mayor of Cedar Rapids, continues to send signals that he’s interested in challenging Reynolds in the Republican primary. Corbett has released a book, “Beyond Promises,” and recently has embarked upon a book tour through the state.

Corbett told The Gazette he will gauge reaction to the book and his tour and decide in the next month or so whether to run for governor.

“If I do this book tour and it’s successful, and I feel I am making the connection, than I will be taking that next step,” Corbett told The Gazette.

Things are getting even busier on the left.

This week, Democrat Nate Boulton went on a statewide tour of his own, and Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell joined the race.

Boulton just completed his first year in the Iowa Senate. A labor lawyer by trade, Boulton despite his rookie status was charged with being Senate Democrats’ frontman on two of the bills they most opposed: Changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws for public employees and to its workers’ compensation system.

“People saw that I was taking a leading role to fight for Iowa workers,” Boulton told the Sioux City Journal after one of the final stops of his river-to-river tour.

Hubbell’s is the newest name in the game. He announced this past week that he is exploring a run for governor.

Should Hubbell decide to follow through, run for governor and win, he would move into a home that his family used to own. The Hubbell family owned what is now the governor’s mansion on Terrace Hill for roughly a century before donating it to the state in 1971.

With Hubbell considering a run, the list of Democrats in the race or showing interest has grown to six: Boulton, former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire, Polk County Conservation Director Rich Leopold and Democratic activist Jonathan Neiderbach have declared their candidacies, while state legislator Todd Prichard, like Hubbell, has formed an exploratory committee.

Two more Democrats — John Norris, who served in various roles in former President Barack Obama’s administration, and Sioux City state legislator Chris Hall — also have said they are weighing a run for governor.

Clearly we can expect the Democratic field to be large as the state party gets its first opportunity to rebound from consecutive disastrous elections and break Republicans’ state lawmaking stranglehold.

There’s one more candidate for governor: independent Brent Roske, who covered the 2016 presidential election and Iowa politics as a filmmaker, and whose interviews with candidates and politicians appeared on a Des Moines television station.

In 2014, Roske ran for Congress in California while living on a yacht, and his candidacy for Iowa governor has been endorsed by actor Richard Dreyfuss.

As a no-party candidate, Roske will not be involved in the primary and will be required to secure enough signatures to get onto the November 2018 ballot as an independent.

Iowa’s gubernatorial race is important for myriad reasons, and it will draw a ton of attention without a presidential or U.S. Senate race on the ballot in 2018.

As this past week showed, there will be no shortage of candidates to get us to the primaries.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net.

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