On the west terrace at the State Capitol last week, a crowd gathered to send off the Democratic nominee for governor, Fred Hubbell, on his last major campaign swing across Iowa.
One of the first to arrive at the rally was Dylan Gramwich with the Laborers’ International Union. They’re working hard for Hubbell after recent GOP initiatives they say harmed unions.
“Ever since the primary we’ve been doorknocking and everything we can," Gramwish said. "It’s been pretty bad the last couple of years so we're hoping we can get that turned around."
Soon a crowd of several hundred had arrived to welcome Fred Hubbell and his running mate Rita Hart
"I can’t say how exciting it is to have so many people turn out on such a sun-filled day," Hubbell said to cheering supporters. "Tom Vilsack says this is the most important election in the last 50 years and he had two elections that time frame.”
Also at the podium were a mother of a disabled child fighting for Medicaid services; a long-time mental health advocate; and a college student struggling to pay tuition…a sort of preview of the issues Hubbell is pounding home in the final stretch.
Hubbell and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds are travelling the state in competing bus tours as the November 6th election draws near.
On board his bus, the first-time candidate said he’s surprised by how much he’s enjoyed campaigning.
"I never thought I would like being a candidate, which is why I never did it before," Hubbell said. "The most surprising thing has been, travelling the state and wanting to meet with people and they want to meet with you."
The bus arrives in Ames and the campus of Iowa State University, where early voting is underway.
“We’re going to spread out on this campus and get them to the polls," said Campus Democrats President Taylor Blair. "We have two hours left in this voting period. We can get a couple hundred voters if we try our hardest."
A small crowd gathered at what’s called the Free Speech Zone on campus near the library to hear the Democratic nominee promise more money for schools.
"We’re going to divert money from corporate giveaways, 100 million a year going out the door," Hubbell said. "Instead we're going to put a lot of that money into education.
"Regents will get some, the community colleges will get some, and K-12," Hubbell said. "It's all about you."
The two candidates’ competing bus tours have similar names. Hubbell’s is "Get Iowa Growing" while Reynolds is "Keep Iowa Moving." But the campaign styles are different. Under the governor’s schedule, it’s rally after rally. Hubbell’s includes listening sessions on the issues.
At the Cedar Rapids Library, about 20 people, some accompanied by disabled adult children in wheelchairs, gather to tell Hubbell about their difficulties getting services under privatized Medicaid. One woman could not get batteries for her grown son’s wheelchair. Another said managed care was cutting back on essential supplies like diapers.
Hubbell has said if he’s elected, even if the legislature remains under Republcian control, he will turn back the privatization of Medicaid which won’t require legislative action.
"We understand your challenges," Hubbell said. "You’re the ones getting hurt the most."
Delayne Peterson of Cedar Rapids cares at home for a 45-year old severely disabled daughter. Formerly an independent voter, she registered as a Democrat to vote for Hubbell in the primary.
"He's thoughtul, he isn't knee jerk, he has experience," Peterson said. "He knows how to manage as evidenced by him listening to constituents today without a lot of fanfare.”
Peterson faults Gov. Reynolds for not reconsidering Medicaid privatization after Gov. Terry Branstad approved it. At an earlier listening session in Nevada, Hubbell heard from law enforcement and mental health professionals about efforts to keep the mentally ill out of the county jail. Lt. Gov. candidate Rita Hart urged panelists to gather data on just how much they’ve saved the county.
Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Sally Pedersen was at the tour kickoff rally in Des Moines. She thinks including listening sessions is a good strategy for the final days of the campaign.
"I think it’s the approach that works because people see that he’s serious about the issues," Petersen said. "I think that will be the same style that he will govern."
The long day ended with a meet and greet in Dewitt in eastern Iowa. Back on the bus, Hubbell said not being a politician has been an asset.
"In today’s world politicians are too often told what to do by their party or feel they have to follow the direction of their party in D.C.," Hubbell said. "I think it’s time to have a governor who pushes back, on the divisiveness which the parties tend to exacerbate."
Hubbell vowed to use the days on the road to try to convince voters how important this election is. He apparently made a good case in Cedar Rapids. Delayne Peterson said the young woman who helps care for her disabled daughter left the listening session to go get registered to vote.