DES MOINES, Iowa — The general election Tuesday pit a sitting Republican governor who takes credit for a healthy economy with low unemployment against a wealthy Democratic challenger who insists Iowans need better health care and a government that works for everyone.
Given the state’s tendency to support incumbents, Gov. Kim Reynolds believed she’d have an advantage when she rose to the office from lieutenant governor after her mentor, Terry Branstad, left to become ambassador to China last year.
However, polls indicated that Reynolds struggled to pull ahead of Fred Hubbell, a businessman who outspent the governor on television advertising. Although the $18 million raised by Hubbell is a record for an Iowa gubernatorial candidate, that figure includes $6.4 million of his own money. Reynolds has raised nearly $11 million.
Reynolds defeated Hubbell Tuesday to become the first woman elected governor of Iowa.
Reynolds portrayed herself as a fifth-generation Iowa resident from a working-class family who as a teenager worked as a waitress at a department store restaurant and as a grocery store checker.
“I’ve been there so I understand the impact of the decisions that I make and really how hard it is,” she said in a recent interview.
Reynolds, 59, was a four-term county treasurer and served a partial Iowa Senate term before joining Branstad’s ticket in 2010. She served as his lieutenant governor from 2011 until May 2017, when she became governor. If she wins, she’ll be the state’s first woman elected governor.
Reynolds credited Republicans with reinvigorating the Iowa economy with tax cuts and a pro-business agenda after taking complete control of state government in 2016.
Hubbell, 67, comes from a well-known Des Moines family that has passed down wealth for generations. He’s given millions to charities, has served on local nonprofit boards and worked as a lawyer before rising to CEO of major insurance and retail companies.
Hubbell has said reports showing 40 percent of working Iowans can’t afford basic food and shelter needs is proof the economy isn’t improving for everyone.
Reynolds and a Republican legislature have pushed an extreme conservative agenda that is anti-abortion, anti-union and by privatizing Medicaid has left the state’s most vulnerable citizens without the care they need, he said.
“She’s not a governor for everybody. She’s a governor for her party and I want to be the governor for all Iowans,” Hubbell said.