CLINTON — In sweltering noonday heat at a park here, about 100 people showed up for the newly minted Democratic ticket for governor. And the man at the top of the ticket, Fred Hubbell, confessed he may not be the main attraction.
Not here. Not today.
“I am smart enough to know you’re not all here to see me,” the retired Des Moines businessman said.
Indeed. Hubbell’s selection of state Sen. Rita Hart, a Wheatland Democrat, over the weekend to be his running mate has charged up Clinton County Democrats.
Dozens of them showed up at the kickoff for the new ticket, crowding into the party’s small headquarters before they had to move across the street to a park.
The ticket’s tour has stops scheduled so far this week in Johnson County, Polk County, Marion County and Pottawattamie County.
Before the rally, Hart hugged friends and accepted their congratulations. And in remarks, she said, “I look at each one of your faces and I see a memory.”
Hart, a retired educator who farms with her husband, Paul, in rural Clinton County, had been facing a challenging re-election bid in Senate District 49. Now, she is in the midst of a statewide campaign to try to unseat Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Hart’s rural background may appeal to parts of the state that have not always been friendly to Democrats. But she also comes from a district that has a lot of working-class voters who swung toward the Republican Party in 2016.
Republicans, who have criticized Hubbell for the closings of some Younkers stores in rural Iowa when he was chairman of the chain years ago, said over the weekend that Hart’s presence on the ticket would not change his weakness in rural Iowa.
Hart initially had endorsed state Sen. Nate Boulton for the nomination, saying he was fighting for those working people. But in an interview Monday, she said the endorsement came before Hubbell got into the race — and that Hubbell also shares the goals.
“Those are the values that I find important and I’m happy that I’m on a team here with Fred because he has those same values,” she said.
Hubbell said he appreciated Hart’s background as an educator, and that she is from a small town. He said she would be “very involved in helping us make sure we’re talking about the right things and listening appropriately and have the right ideas for voters.”
He also pushed back against the idea Hart’s appeal is just to rural areas. “I think Rita being on the ticket is going to help all over the place, all 99 counties,” he said.
Hart said she planned on campaigning across the state, but would spend plenty of time in Eastern Iowa, where she’s won two elections, in 2012 and 2014 — the latter in the face of a Republican wave. “These are my people. I have been working with them and for them for a long time,” she said.
Supporters applauded the choice.
“She has a way with people. She’s very friendly. She listens,” said Chris Michel of Clinton.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Bill Jacobs, who chairs the Clinton County Democrats, said it’s not only Hart’s rural background but that she also has experience in state government that helps. “I think she complements Fred very well. It makes it a much stronger ticket,” he said.