JOHNSTON — Disagreements over key issues — including health care and tax breaks for businesses — highlighted a debate between six Democrats running to be Iowa’s next governor 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 November.
Hubbell, Boulton and Glasson are the front-runners, according to political insiders and the few public polls on the race.
Hubbell was targeted by some opponents who questioned his progressive bona fides on health care and tax credits.
Each candidate has called for constraining tax relief programs for businesses.
Boulton accused Hubbell of helping to dole out millions of dollars in tax breaks 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. “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.”
Hubbell said projects that received assistance on his watch were required to boost wages in the region.
A similar requirement exists currently in the one of the state’s most-used tax assistance programs.
Hubbell also defended his work as the state tried to repair damage done by a since-extinguished tax credit for movie projects.
Norris objected, 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 Legislature.
All of the candidates criticized the tax cuts as too expensive for the state and too generous for the wealthiest Iowans.
Norris said there are good elements to the tax cuts, but they should be repealed and redrawn.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“I’m not ready to say that should be repealed yet,” Hubbell said, adding he would examine the state’s myriad business tax breaks.
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 Democrats need to nominate a centrist in order to win the general election.
“Being in the middle, centrist candidate 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 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, require employer contributions and leverage federal funding.
Boulton, a state senator and labor attorney, touted his legislative work 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 debated Sunday in Davenport. A third debate is scheduled May 30.