Staff Columnist

Hubbell is taking heat for wealth

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell talks with Jay Wurtele of Cedar Rapids during a tour at Community Health Free Clinic on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Hubbell visited the free clinic as part of a statewide tour of health care providers, to talk with providers and patients like Wurtele, who comes to the clinic for insulin that he cannot otherwise afford. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell talks with Jay Wurtele of Cedar Rapids during a tour at Community Health Free Clinic on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Hubbell visited the free clinic as part of a statewide tour of health care providers, to talk with providers and patients like Wurtele, who comes to the clinic for insulin that he cannot otherwise afford. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Fred Hubbell might win. But then again, he just can’t win.

The retired Des Moines business executive leads in the two recent polls we’ve seen tracking the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He’s outspent his five Democratic opponents and pumped $2.1 million from his own fat bank account into his campaign.

That’s allowed him to run a lot of television ads selling his message and introducing himself to Iowans. This is what successful political campaigns tend to do. More Democratic primary voters, if these polls are to be believed, prefer him to his rivals. That’s sort of the objective of a campaign.

Hubbell is not my favorite candidate. If I were a Democratic primary voter, which I am not, I’d lean toward John Norris. He has a ton of experience, solid command of issues and the best chance of appealing to voters outside the party’s urban strongholds. I’ve argued the party would be better off with a nominee not tied so tightly to Des Moines. But what do I know?

Still, it’s hard to argue with the fact Hubbell has run the best campaign to actually win the primary on Election Day, not in a convention. Well, maybe not so hard.

I’ve heard and read supporters of his rivals suggest Hubbell is somehow buying the nomination, as if spending the money needed to win a primary election is somehow less than fair and democratic. Better, I guess, to win the nomination with the support of convention delegates.

You can’t buy a nomination if you’re a candidate with no appeal. And this isn’t like 2016 when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee swooped in to insist Patty Judge should be the one to get shellacked by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. Hubbell is convincing voters he’s a sound choice.

Maybe it’s enough, or maybe not. The race is fluid, I’ve read. But even if Democrats ultimately are OK with the rich guy, Republicans are itching to joust with “Sir Frederick Hubbell.”

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That’s what he’s been dubbed by Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, both in an interview on WHO-TV and on Twitter. Other Republicans are smacking Hubbell’s wealth on social media. Where could Republicans in this day and age get the idea name-calling on Twitter is the height of political discourse?

Sad!

Speaking of Trump, Kaufmann seems to be suggesting some wealthy guy who inherited his money and is spending it on his own campaign is too out of touch and clearly unfit for high office. Set your cynicism meters to supersonic, folks.

With Trump, his fortune is a virtuous barrier to donor influence. With Hubbell, it’s a lampooned liability. The GOP Legislature just approved tax cuts weighted heavily in favor of corporations and rich donors, and routinely does their bidding on issue after issue. The governor borrows their jets. But faced with a wealthy Democrat, it’s time to dust off the prairie populism. One-hundred percent plastic.

So clearly this is the substantive, issue-based campaign we’re headed for, Iowans. And that’s good news for Republicans loathe to detail what they’ll actually do if put back in charge. Help out the Sir Fredericks of the state, I bet.

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

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