Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell casts his ballot in the Iowa Primary, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Businessman wins Democratic nomination for Iowa governor

June 05, 2018 - 9:41 pm

DES MOINES, Iowa (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 five-candidate contest. He'll face Gov. Kim Reynolds, who ran unopposed.

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 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 an event Tuesday night in referencing Hubbell. "You don't know Iowa, but I do."

Voters such as Kathy Sparks, who voted for Hubbell, see hope in the businessman's candidacy.

"He seems like a very honorable, intelligent person, and I think he'd be a good leader for our state," she said.

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Associated Press writer Scott Stewart in Des Moines contributed to this report.

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