Even before Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell scored his landslide victory in Tuesday’s primary, his Republican opponent and her allies were drawing battle lines for the hard-fought general-election campaign that will play out over the next five months.
Hubbell, a wealthy retired Des Moines businessman, used a massive fundraising advantage that included about $3 million of his own money to sweep to a 55.5 percent winning margin among the 175,529 Democrats who voted to make him their nominee.
Hubbell’s 98,013 ballots in unofficial vote results outpaced second-place finisher Cathy Glasson, who polled 36,131 votes for about 20.5 percent. Next was John Norris in third with 20,200 votes, or 11.44 percent, followed by Andy McGuire at 5.24 percent with 9,257 votes and Ross Wilburn at 2.2 percent with 3,807, About 5 percent of the total went to Nate Boulton, who suspended his campaign last month in the face of sexual misconduct allegations but whose name remained on the ballot.
On the Republican side, Gov. Kim Reynolds was unopposed in the primary for her first statewide bid after taking over as governor in May 2017. Republicans wasted little time in drawing a contrast of her as a “small-town girl” from Osceola who rose from a working-class background to the state’s highest executive office versus a challenger who grew up out of touch with ordinary Iowans as a member of Des Moines’ privileged elite.
In the launch of her general-election campaign, Reynolds told supporters that Hubbell grew up “very differently from most of us.”
“He has no idea what it’s like to balance a family checkbook or to make the tough decisions most of us make each and every day when we’re trying to make ends meet,” Reynolds said.
Democrats reacted with surprised that a Republican Party that championed Donald Trump and Mitt Romney would be waging a class-warfare narrative.
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“What’s significant to voters is not whether someone is rich or not, it’s whether they sort of glory in being rich,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who endorsed Hubbell’s primary bid. “The whole idea that people will vote against a rich guy — they’ll vote against a rich guy who kind of glories in it and is isolated or stuck up by it, but that’s not Fred.”
The fact that Hubbell has been rich all of his life is not the issue, according to Reynolds. “It’s that he has no idea what it’s like not to be.” she said Tuesday night.
“We appreciate wealth in this country and success,” Reynolds said Wednesday after speaking to the Association of Business and Industry conference in Coralville. “But I know there a lot of Iowans out there who have never experienced that, that are working really hard every single day to make ends meet.”
As to Democrats’ criticism of the tone of her remarks, Reynolds said she’s been listening to what her opponents have been saying about her.
“They’ve been pretty rough on me the last couple of days … I don’t think they’ve been rosy,” she said, adding, “It goes both ways.”
Democrats are accusing Reynolds of pushing “an aggressive and extreme right-wing agenda never before seen in Iowa history,” presiding over a disastrous budget and lending her support to President Trump’s policies that may hurt Iowa’s economy.
Reynolds thanked ABI members for being a “vital part of Iowa’s success” and said the private sector plays a key role in “connecting reality to good public policy.” Their support was helpful in passing a tax overhaul, for example, and leading to unanimous passage in the Legislature of her Future Ready Iowa program to improve workforce skills.
Her mental health reforms and teen suicide prevention measures also got unanimous approval from lawmakers.
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“That says a lot about leadership, about being able to reach across the aisle, about being able to do the legwork on the front end to bring the right stakeholders to the table,” Reynolds said. “It also says a lot about a leader who can define a problem and what the solution is and the legislation that will move it forward.”
Hubbell, making his first campaign stop as the Democratic nominee at a community college job-training program for welders, fired back by noting the state budget had shortfalls the past two fiscal years that forced the governor and legislators to borrow $144 million from reserves.
”Well how well has she balanced the state’s checkbook?” Hubbell asked. “She had a $900 million surplus four or five years ago, now she owes $144 million. That’s a pretty bad balancing job. We’ve all balanced individual checkbooks. I’ve balanced a lot of corporate checkbooks as well as individual checkbooks, and I don’t think I’ve ever missed a budget anywhere close to what she’s been missing the state budget.”
Hubbell said he wants to focus on policy and issues in this general-election campaign while — he said — Republicans would rather deflect attention from things like stagnant incomes, underfunding education and health care in favor of making the race a personality contest.
“Now that we’re in the general election, the campaign focuses on the governor’s record and we’re going to talk about the governor’s record and whether that’s actually helping Iowans or not helping Iowans and I think in most cases it is not,” he said. “You get a lot of lip service but no action, no results. We’re going to be talking about records, not background and personality characteristics. We’re not into that.”
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