DAVENPORT — Iowans who remain undecided on which of a half dozen Democrats to vote for in next month’s gubernatorial primary got their first look at the candidates on a debate stage Sunday.
Voters who have been following the race may not have learned much new about Nate Boulton, Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, Andy McGuire, John Norris or Ross Wilburn, the six Democrats vying to be their party’s nominee for Iowa governor.
Voters who are just now tuning into the race were introduced to the candidates, who stressed their professional experiences and differed on precious few policy topics.
“We have great candidates. I would tell you any one of us would be better than Kim Reynolds is right now in that governor’s office,” McGuire said in her closing comments.
The six Democratic candidates fielded questions on mental health care, sexual harassment, collective bargaining laws, rural Iowa issues, immigration and abortion.
By and large, the candidates did not diverge much on the issues, although there were subtle differences.
Glasson, a registered nurse and local labor leader from Coralville, continued to call for a state-run universal, single-payer health care program. She is the only of the six candidates to take that stance, and made the pitch in her opening comments and again in responding to a question of whether the state can afford returning Medicaid management back to the state, which all six candidates support.
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“I support Medicare for all on a federal level to cover all Americans. But we can’t count on Washington to get that done. So we need a universal, single-payer plan right here in Iowa, and we wouldn’t have to deal with this mess that’s been created by this governor and her predecessor,” Glasson said.
“And that’s the clear difference from my Democratic colleagues here, is transitioning to single payer so we don’t have to continue to go down this path, and Iowans get the care they need, we reduce costs and it covers everyone.”
The candidates agreed the state should devote more funding to mental health care services, but only Glasson and Boulton, a labor lawyer and state senator from Des Moines, suggested state-run mental health care facilities that were closed in 2015 by former Gov. Terry Branstad should be reopened. The other candidates stressed a focus on community-based services and a need for mental health care beds.
Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, said six years ago he worked with a coalition to help increase the number of mental health care beds and psychiatrists at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
“That’s what leaders do: They step up, bring people together, address problems and get results,” Hubbell said. “That’s what we need in our state.”
The Democratic candidates reiterated their opposition to the collective bargaining changes implemented in 2017 by the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature and Branstad, but few offered detailed responses to how they would work with what is likely to be at best a split-control Legislature to undo some of those changes.
“If we use the bully pulpit of the governor’s office, that will help us to get people from both sides, Republicans and Democrats, to sit down and talk about how we don’t want to hurt our teachers, we don’t want to hurt our public service employees,” said McGuire, a physician and former state party chairwoman who lives in Des Moines.
John Norris of Des Moines, also a former state party leader, and Ross Wilburn of Ames, a former mayor of Iowa City, round out the Democratic field.
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Glasson said she would use her executive authority to appoint labor-friendly Iowans to state boards and commissions.
Sunday’s debate was hosted by KWQC-TV in Davenport and the Quad City Times.
The six candidates are scheduled to debate again Wednesday on Iowa Public Television.