Reynolds and Hubbell focus on healthcare, taxes in first debate

Gov. Kim Reynolds and opponent Fred Hubbell took to the debate floor for the first time Wednesday night at the DMACC campus in Ankeny to express their views publicly.

The auditorium of Building 6 was divided in half, one side occupied by Hubbell’s supporters, the other by Reynolds’. Regardless, by 6:45 p.m. the whole space was filled with constituents and their excited, expectant chatter; everyone was ready.

Prior to the debate, rallies were held outside for Hubbell and Reynolds, as well as Libertarian candidate Jake Porter, who has been facing contention in his attempts to participate in the debates.

Among the sea of signs from both campaigns, there were chants of “Stand with Fred,” and  “Fred Hubbell all the way.” Reynolds supporters responded with “Fire Fred,” “Hubbell is trouble” and “Four more years.”

Jacqueline Riekena, a Reynolds campaigner said she supports the candidate because of how she helps middle-class Iowans and “keeps Iowa moving.”

A Hubbell supporter stands with him due to his views on Medicaid, collective bargaining and because he wants to “take care of the people who live here.”

Officials from KCCI and the Des Moines Register, who were co-hosts of this debate, spoke before the candidates took the stage.

“By being at the debate, you are demonstrating your interest in the future of Iowa.” Executive Editor of the Register, Carol Hunter said.

The entrance of the candidates transformed the audience’s chatters into whispers, but their enthusiasm remained. The next hour seemingly disappeared before everyone’s eyes.

After opening statements, moderators Steve Karlin of KCCI and Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register dove into a list of various questions. However, the topics of healthcare and taxes kept bubbling up.

A composed Reynolds stood firm in her stance of supporting middle-class Iowans with tax breaks, citing the historic cut from the previous legislative session, and criticized Hubbell’s desire to repeal those cuts.

Hubbell then utilized his key phrase of the night: “I want to be a governor for all Iowans.” He did not say explicitly whether he would repeal current tax cuts, just that he also supported tax-breaks for middle-class and low income Iowans.

Reynolds cited several statistics throughout the debate to represent the well-being of Iowa’s economy, such as the low unemployment rates. “Iowa’s economy is as good as it’s been in 10 years,” she said.

Hubbell said, “You have to look behind the numbers,” citing the statistic that 40% of Iowans are in a job, sometimes multiple, yet still cannot meet basic needs. He used this as a platform to advocate for collective bargaining restoration and raising the minimum wage.

During one portion of the debate, a television ad from each campaign was aired, then both candidates examined what was said about the other. Hubbell’s ad targeted Reynolds’ choice to privatize Medicaid. He posited that it takes away essential care for Iowans as well as jobs for healthcare providers, and supports repealing the legislation. Reynolds remained confident in the legislation and said she didn’t think reverting back to state controlled Medicaid would be possible.

Amidst the conversation about budget management Reynolds jabbed at Hubbell, “You’re just talking about everything people want to hear. You’re not talking about how you are going to fund the system going forward.” she said according to the Des Moines Register. In reality, neither candidate truly laid out plans for implementing programs during the debate.

Although they both clearly communicated some stances, they reiterated the same key phrases, and overall, how they plan to deliver once in office was left unsaid. At one point, Hubbell essentially refused to answer simply whether the state’s budget was in good shape or bad shape. Earlier he implicitly criticized the budget saying one of his priorities was a “fiscally responsible budget.”

The next debate takes place from 7-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17 in Sioux City, Iowa.

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