JOHNSTON — There were disagreements over key issues, including health care and state-funded tax assistance programs, and some finger-pointing among the candidates as the six Democrats running to be Iowa’s next governor debated Wednesday evening.
Nate Boulton, Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, Andy McGuire, John Norris and Ross Wilburn are vying to be the Democratic Party’s nominee to face Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in this fall’s general election.
Hubbell, Boulton and Glasson are considered most likely to win the Democratic nomination by Iowa political experts and the few public polls on the race.
Hubbell during the debate was targeted by some of the other candidates, who questioned his progressive bona fides on health care and tax credits.
Each of the Democratic candidates has called for constraining the amount of state-funded tax relief programs for businesses.
Boulton accused Hubbell of helping to dole out millions of state dollars in tax relief while he served on the state’s economic development board.
“We need a nominee that hasn’t had a hand in the cookie jar on all this,” Boulton said, adding that he was referring to Hubbell. “I think we have to have somebody that has not shown that they’re willing to engage in this coupon economic system that is failing our state right now.”
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Hubbell said projects that received assistance on his watch were required to have a provision that would help wages grow in the region.
A similar requirement exists now in one of the state’s most-used tax assistance programs.
Hubbell also defended his work for the state as it tried to repair damage done by a since-extinguished tax credit for movie projects.
Norris objected to that characterization, alleging most of the work was done before Hubbell was called in to help.
“We had to stop some (tax credits) and we had to support some and we had to bring lawsuits against some,” Hubbell said.
Hubbell also was the only candidate who stopped short of saying he would repeal the tax cuts recently implemented by Reynolds and the Republican-led Iowa Legislature.
All the candidates criticized the tax cuts for being too expensive for the state budget and providing too much relief for the wealthiest Iowans.
Norris said there are some good elements to the tax cuts, but that they should be repealed and redrawn.
Hubbell was the only candidate to not agree with a full repeal.
“I’m not ready to say that should be repealed yet,” Hubbell said, adding that he would examine the state’s myriad business tax relief programs and business tax cuts.
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Hubbell pitched himself as a candidate who has been running to win the general election since Day 1.
“What I want to do is try to unify people in this state. Because, as I said earlier, we’re going to need to bring people together to win the election and to get anything done as we’re going to be governing,” Hubbell said. “So I’m going to find that common ground and get results for people.”
Glasson pushed back at the idea that Democrats need to nominate a centrist candidate to win the general election.
“Centrist candidates and policies will not win for Democrats,” Glasson said. “We have lost 11 out of the last 14 governor’s races in this state by staying safe in the middle. ... We need to actually stand up and fight against status quo, establishment politics.”
Glasson throughout the night hammered on two of her campaign staples: raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and creating a state-run, single-payer health care system. She said she is working with national experts to determine the cost of the program, which would run in the billions of dollars, and would fund it by limiting tax assistance programs, raising the minimum wage to create more tax revenue, requiring employer contributions and leveraging federal funding.
Boulton, a state senator and labor attorney, touted legislative work he has done on many of the issues debated, and said he would provide a long-term vision for the state’s future.
“We’re not going to win in 2018 if we don’t start talking about what our vision forward for the future is,” Boulton said. “We create the Iowa that we want for the future today.”
Iowa’s primary election is June 5.
The candidates also debated this past weekend in Davenport. A third debate, hosted by KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register, is scheduled for May 30.
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