SIOUX CITY — Democratic challenger for governor Fred Hubbell, in a debate Wednesday, said Trump administration tariffs on China have hurt Iowa farmers.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said producers understand the tariffs ultimately will lead to an improved overall economy.
The two opponents, in an hourlong debate Tuesday, also discussed recent sexual harassment cases in Iowa government.
One of the three moderators asked whether Hubbell and Reynolds support the direction of President Donald Trump’s tariff moves on China, which have hurt soybean prices.
Reynolds replied, “China has been sticking it to us for years,” particularly with theft of U.S. intellectual property, which is estimated at more than $5 billion annually.
Reynolds added that “farmers understand” the need “for short-term pain for long-term gain” in the economy.
Hubbell responded, “We need a governor who will stand up for Iowans.” He said the Trump tariffs have amounted to a “war” that is fought “on the back of Iowa farmers.”
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The trade war escalated further in September, with China announcing retaliatory tax increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports. The increases were in response to the U.S. announcing it will impose tariffs of 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made goods.
Moderator Ron Steele of KWWL-TV in Waterloo-Cedar Falls asked about high-profile sexual harassment cases, including in the state Legislature and the Iowa Finance Authority, saying it amounted to a “locker room atmosphere.”
Hubbell said Reynolds has been a state senator or in the executive branch for the past 10 years while those incidents occurred in a “toxic culture.”
“We need to put in place a whistleblower process,” he said, where an outside third party would investigate sexual harassment.
Reynolds said “we had a zero-tolerance policy,” which she enforced, by the firing of IFA director David Jamison. The governor terminated Jamison in March, after two women in the agency complained he was sexually harassing them. He had led the Iowa Finance Authority since 2011.
Reynolds also said that her administration includes many strong women.
“I am not going to be lectured by a guy on sexual harassment,” the governor said.
In a third issue on the night in which 10 subject areas were framed by moderators, Hubbell and Reynolds debated the level of K-12 school district funding.
Earlier this year, led by majority party Republicans, the Legislature approved a 1 percent increase for K-12 districts for the 2018-19 budget year, and the increase was set at 1.1 percent the prior year. The Sioux City School Board and other districts made cuts, citing insufficient revenues.
Hubbell was critical of those amounts, saying the cramped revenues harmed education in the state. Reynolds said, “We can’t fall into the trap” of measuring the quality of education by the amount of funding directed to it.
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Neither Hubbell nor Reynolds directly answered the question on what the rate of the state’s supplemental aid to public school districts should be in 2019-20.
Despite disagreement on issues, the tone was civil.
Matthew Johnson, of Sioux City was among an audience of about 300 people at Morningside College. Johnson said he is glad the candidates discussed tax credits and education. However, he said the answers overall were short of specifics.
“I didn’t really feel like I learned a lot in this debate,” Johnson said.
The election is Nov. 6.
Reynolds is campaigning for a first full term as governor. She rose from lieutenant governor last year after Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China.
Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, was the choice of 43 percent of likely voters with Reynolds at 41 percent in an Iowa Poll published last month by the Des Moines Register.
Jake Porter, the Libertarian Party nominee for governor, was denied participation in the Sioux City debate, based on polling benchmarks established for candidates. He was in Sioux City on Wednesday and criticized the process for inclusion.
The first gubernatorial debate was last week in Ankeny. A third debate is scheduled for Sunday in Davenport.