Staff Columnist

We know what Fred Hubbell is against, but what is he for?

Democratic nominee for governor has spent the past year trashing Republicans - and little else

Fred Hubbell, democratic candidate for governor, speaks at IBEW Local, the electrician labor union in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at an event to organize with and train local supporters who will help canvas for the upcoming elections, on Sunday, June 10, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Fred Hubbell, democratic candidate for governor, speaks at IBEW Local, the electrician labor union in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at an event to organize with and train local supporters who will help canvas for the upcoming elections, on Sunday, June 10, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)

Fred Hubbell wants you to know he is not Kim Reynolds.

The Des Moines Democrat has spent the past several months promising to undo the policies championed by Republican policymakers over the past two years. Yet he’s spent almost none of that time explaining what policies he would support instead.

Hubbell is a businessman attempting to running to run as a anti-politician, and easily capturing the Democratic nomination in last week’s crowded gubernatorial primary. He is one of few statewide candidates in recent Iowa history without an electoral record of his own. In contrast, Reynolds and her predecessor Terry Branstad had substantial prior experience in public office for voters to consider.

Hubbell has focused his criticism in particular on fiscal issues, including economic development and tax policy.

“The biggest issue for me is what I call wasteful corporate giveaways … There’s this whole category called tax expenditures, which is for individuals as well as for business that basically gets no oversight, no supervision,” Hubbell said during a meeting with The Gazette Editorial Board more than two months ago.

Hubbell said he would have vetoed the tax reform bill passed in the Legislature this year and he would put forth his own comprehensive tax reform proposal if he’s elected. But apparently Iowans would have to wait until he’s inaugurated to see exactly what his tax reform package would include.

Hubbell says he wants to scrutinize the existing set of tax incentives to determine which ones are wise investments, although he hasn’t been quick to point out such a review is part of the tax reform law passed by Statehouse Republicans this year.

And Hubbell of all people should know a review of tax credits would come with no guarantee of actual policy reform. He was one of seven panelists who reviewed tax credits and recommended changes to then-Gov. Chet Culver in 2010. The recommendations were largely ignored and Iowa’s lavish tax credits have continued.

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So how would things be different next time, under a businessman governor with no experience building consensus among rival legislative factions? It’s hard to say.

Meanwhile, he is non-committal about pursuing promising new revenue streams.

During an appearance last week on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program, he said Iowa should not be among the first states to authorize sports betting, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision clearing the way more state-sanctioned gambling. He also sidestepped questions about granting additional casino licenses, deferring to the state Racing and Gaming Commission, which has been reluctant to open new markets.

“I’m suggesting we step back and … go back to more toward the original idea. So let’s take the casino business, step back and figure out what’s the right way to go forward,” Hubbell said during one of his first major interviews as the Democratic nominee for governor.

Hubbell launched his campaign for governor almost a year ago. After all these months, Iowans may know what he’s against, but we’re still wondering what he’s for.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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