Staff Columnist

GOP shots at Fred Hubbell over wealth are rich

Fred Hubbell of Des Moines  arrives Wednesday, May 16, 2018, for the Iowa Public Television debate for the six Democrats seeking the party's nomination for governor.  (photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
Fred Hubbell of Des Moines arrives Wednesday, May 16, 2018, for the Iowa Public Television debate for the six Democrats seeking the party's nomination for governor. (photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

So Fred Hubbell is your Democratic nominee for governor after the retired Des Moines executive cruised to an impressive victory in Tuesday’s primary.

Republicans immediately accused him of being rich.

“As expected, Prince Frederick Hubbell found enough spare change to purchase the Democratic nomination tonight,” Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann tweeted Tuesday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said “we celebrate wealth in this country.” However …

“The issue isn’t that Fred Hubbell has been rich his entire life, it’s that he has no idea what it’s (like) not to be,” Reynolds told supporters, according to the Des Moines Register. “He has no idea what it’s like to balance a family checkbook or make tough decisions most of us make each day …”

This from a governor who signed a huge tax cut package into law just weeks after signing midyear budget cuts. Iowa’s overdraft is in the mail.

But it’s true, the largest donor to Hubbell’s campaign is Fred Hubbell, who has poured nearly $3 million of his own money into his drive to retake Terrace Hill, a mansion once owned by his family.

So what Hubbell and Reynolds have in common is rich folks are paying their freight. Hubbell’s top donor has made it clear in his TV ads, mailings and on the campaign trail what he wants to do as governor. What exactly do Reynolds’ top donors expect?

In 2017-18, a half-dozen donors have given Reynolds gifts topping $80,000 each, according to campaign disclosure reports. None of them are struggling to balance the family checkbook.

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There’s Debra Hansen of West Des Moines, co-founder of Iowa Select Farms — the nation’s fifth largest pork producer — who gave $175,000. Her son, Michael Hansen, CEO of Hansen AG Solutions, chipped in another $100,000. David North of Bellevue, president and CEO of Sedgwick, a Memphis-based business benefits firm, and his wife Penny donated $100,000. They also spent $5,000-plus on a fundraiser and a flight for Reynolds.

Reynolds received $100,000 from the Shari Avis Horner Trust in West Des Moines, named for the wife of the late Robert Horner, who built his wealth in asphalt paving. Ankeny developer Denny Elwell, a major donor to former Gov. Terry Branstad, also chipped in $100,000 to Reynolds.

Neighbors are helping out. There’s Robert D. Kern’s private trust of Waukesha, Wis., which donated $80,000. Robert and Patricia Kern were major donors to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Missourians Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield donated $50,000. A 2014 Politico article titled “King Rex” reports that the couple splits time between their $1.7 million mansion in St. Louis and a 1,000-acre riverside estate in Osage County. Tough decisions each day.

Reynolds also received $1.25 million from the Republican Governors Association. In 2016, the RGA’s top donor was Venetian Hotel and Resort, at $4 million. It’s owned by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, worth more than $4 billion according to Forbes.

So massive wealth, earned or inherited (see Trump, Donald) is no problem when it comes to campaign bucks-hunting. The real issue Republicans have with Hubbell’s wealth is they won’t be able to massively outraise and outspend the Democratic nominee. Prince Hubbell could turn out to be a royal pain for the GOP. Talk about rich.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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