It’s time to focus on Iowa’s real issues

Distraction appears to be a main focus so far in the race for Iowa governor.

Election Day is two months away. The decision Iowans make on Nov. 6 will be an important factor in where our state is headed.

But instead of having a full and frank debate over important issues and ideas that will shape Iowa’s future, Gov. Kim Reynolds and, to a lesser extent, Fred Hubbell are allowing the race to revolve around sideshow issues.

Last week, it was Hubbell’s inadequate disclosure of his income tax returns. Releasing only a few pages served to guarantee that there will be Reynolds TV ads and campaign speeches asking, “What does Fred Hubbell not want you to see in his tax returns?”

Hubbell is a very intelligent man. So, why wouldn’t he be savvy enough to foresee that making public only a few pages would be seen as wholly inadequate. Surely, he remembers how Democrats were relentless in 2016 with their criticism of Donald Trump for his refusal to make public his returns.

Hubbell’s ill-conceived decision has provided Reynolds with another topic to use in trying to distract voters.
And Reynolds doesn’t need a gift like that.

The governor has aired two particular television ads so often about Hubbell’s time as the top executive at the Younkers department store chain that many people can almost recite the entire script from memory – or at least the “money” line, “The only thing Fred Hubbell cared about was his own paycheck.”

Of course, it requires a certain amount of arrogance by the Reynolds campaign to criticize a business executive for closing department stores in the middle of a decades-long downturn in retailing, especially in mid-sized cities.

That hubris is even more obvious when you remember that Reynolds, during her time at the side of Terry Branstad, was involved in the closure of the state mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant, the Iowa Juvenile Home at Toledo and 36 Iowa Workforce Development field offices across Iowa.

The fundamental issue in the governor’s race – the real issue that is at stake on Nov. 6 – is whether our state needs new leaders to guide us through these challenging times that await us.

When you have a chance to see Kim Reynolds or her lieutenant governor nominee, Adam Gregg, a lawyer originally from Hawarden, or when you can attend an event with Fred Hubbell or his lieutenant governor pick, Rita Hart, a farmer and former teacher from Wheatland, don’t just listen politely to their speeches.

Be sure to ask them about their vision for the state and compare that with where you think Iowa needs to be headed.

Ask Reynolds about how she is going to end the horror stories coming out of the state’s privatization of the Medicaid program, with recipients being denied care their doctors believe is essential and with health services providers going for four or five months or longer without being paid for services and equipment they have already provided.

Ask the governor why she booted David Hudson of Windsor Heights from the Iowa Medical Assistance Advisory Council. Was it just a coincidence that he had expressed his family’s frustrations with the way privatized Medicaid was treating his disabled son? Or was she trying to stifle a critical public voice?

Ask the candidates about their vision for Iowa’s K-12 schools. Ask them if local schools have a role that is bigger than just providing STEM training (science, technology, engineering and math).

Quiz them about the quality of water in Iowa’s rivers and lakes. Would they be satisfied if this contamination were flowing into our state from Minnesota rather than moving out of Iowa by way of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers?

Don’t let them tap-dance away from answering where they intend to go in the state budget to find the savings that will be necessary to balance the budget in the coming years if revenues continue to lag behind expenses.

Ask Reynolds and Hubbell whether they would endorse finally providing funding for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund that a significant majority of voters approved in 2010. The Branstad/Reynolds team was never inclined to fund the fund after voters spoke resoundingly.

Quiz Reynolds and Hubbell about tuition at the state universities and the cost of attending Iowa’s community colleges. These institutions have been an important road to improved prosperity for generations of Iowa young people, but it certainly seems as if the cost of a college education is moving beyond the reach of many young Iowans.

These are the kinds of issues Kim Reynolds and Fred Hubbell should be addressing. Don’t let the focus of the campaign remain on what happened to the Younkers stores 30 years ago.

There’s much more than a yellow-dot special riding on the Nov. 6 election.

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Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and retired opinion editor at the Des Moines Register. He is a native of Bloomfield, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He can be reached at

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