DES MOINES (AP) — A wealthy businessman who has never been elected to public office will challenge Iowa’s Republican governor in November, offering voters two candidates with contrasting backgrounds and visions for the state.
Fred Hubbell, a retired insurance executive, secured the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s primary by winning a crowded five-candidate contest. He far exceeded the 35 percent threshold needed to avoid a state convention where party activists would have picked the winner.
Hubbell will face Gov. Kim Reynolds, who ran unopposed.
“Tonight’s results send a very strong message,” Hubbell said during a victory speech Tuesday. “Iowa voters have had enough of the heartless and misguided policies and priorities that have taken our state backwards.”
Reynolds, 58, has highlighted her upbringing in rural St. Charles and early jobs like a waitressing gig for the retail store chain Younkers. Hubbell, 67, once served as that company’s chairman. His ancestors have lived in Des Moines for more than a century and owned the governor’s ornate mansion before it was donated to the state.
Reynolds, a former lieutenant governor, was sworn in last year to serve the remaining term of former Gov. Terry Branstad, now U.S. ambassador to China. She’s the first female governor in Iowa history and is seeking the distinction of being the first woman elected to the position.
Hubbell is well-known in Des Moines for his philanthropy, political donations and family’s real estate business. He has traveled the state and flooded television airwaves to highlight his support for reforming the state’s Medicaid health care program and funding Planned Parenthood.
Reynolds is deeply conservative and signed into law a ban on most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy. It’s considered the nation’s strictest abortion ban, though it’s on hold amid a lawsuit. Reynolds has also been criticized for Iowa’s transition to a privatized Medicaid program.
Iowa Democrats see the governor’s race as the beginning of an effort to retake political power in Iowa, which is now dominated by Republicans after several election cycles.
Although they support President Donald Trump, a billionaire, Iowa Republicans and Reynolds appear ready to criticize Hubble for his wealth.
“If you think the governor’s office is for sale to the highest bidder, guess what, you don’t know Iowans,” said Reynolds at a separate event Tuesday while referencing Hubbell. “You don’t know Iowa, but I do.”
– Associated Press writer Scott Stewart in Des Moines contributed to this report.