PERRY — Iowa’s major party gubernatorial candidates traded political barbs over mental-health reforms Tuesday and drove home their campaign selling points to supporters along separate bus tours leading to next week’s general-election showdown.
“We’re down to the final seven days — yea!” Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds told about three dozen people at a Perry Hy-Vee store who turned out to greet her, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and 3rd District U.S. Rep. David Young. “If we don’t turn out, we’re not going to get the results that we want.”
Before heading to Cedar Rapids for a rally with former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell held a discussion at the Polk County Jail on jail diversion programs and mental health care. Hubbell, along with his running mate, state Sen. Rita Hart, and his wife, Charlotte, heard from corrections and mental health care officials.
“I think everybody in Iowa realizes that we have a crisis in mental health and substance abuse that’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. And we need to do something about it,” Hubbell told reporters. “And we’re going to need to be creative. We’re going to have to work together and get common-sense solutions that work for all Iowans.”
Responding at her Perry event, Reynolds pointed to comprehensive legislation that Hubbell’s running mate supported that is intended to address gaps in the mental-health system and create six centers in Iowa to help stabilize people in crisis and keep them with their families, rather than go to emergency rooms and jails.
“Fred likes to talk about doing stuff but we’re actually doing it and we’re doing it in a bipartisan manner,” the governor said. “I would quit making this a partisan issue. Get on board like his running mate did and let’s get out there and get it done and get it implemented.”
Hubbell said the legislation “has some nice ideas in it,” but noted it was passed without any additional state funding. Hubbell said he would be open to raising the cap on local property tax levies that pay for mental health care services.
“If we want results, if we want to improve the mental health and substance abuse crisis in our state, we’re going to need some funding,” he said.
Reynolds used her Perry event to tout her administration’s economic record and warn that everything would come “to a screeching halt and we will go backwards” if voters choose Hubbell’s agenda.
“His answer to everything is more money, more money, more money; bigger government, bigger government, bigger government,” said Reynolds. “This is a tax-and-spend liberal. He can’t spend your money fast enough.”
Hubbell fired back, calling on Reynolds to remove controversial U.S. Rep. Steve King as co-chair of her campaign and criticizing her ally, President Donald Trump, for proposing to end birthright citizenship.
“Time and again we have seen Steve King spew hateful, divisive rhetoric and we have seen Gov. Reynolds defend her campaign co-chair,” Hubbell said. “She has been confronted by her supporters and even her own party leaders condemning his reprehensible actions, but the governor continues to have him leading her campaign.”
On the birthright issue, Reynolds said she differed with the president and preferred he and Congress work in a bipartisan way to forge comprehensive immigration reform and secure U.S. borders.
“It’s just ridiculous that they’re not getting that done. It needs to be addressed,” Reynolds told reporters.
The citizenship issue could have future implications in Iowa since Reynolds last spring signed into law Senate File 481, which requires law enforcement agencies to comply with federal immigration detainer requests for people in their custody under policies in effect by Jan. 1.
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In addition, the legislation prohibits local governments from discouraging their officers or others from activities related to enforcing immigration laws. Any offending local entities could be denied state funds for up to 90 days for violating the law.