With seven days remaining until the June 5th primary, the contest among five Democratic candidates for governor has intensified.
The campaign was scrambled last week when State Senator Nate Boulton withdrew from the race after The Des Moines Register published accusations from three women who say Boulton touched them inappropriately. Candidate Fred Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, was the perceived front-runner in the race before Boulton’s exit.
“We haven’t changed anything,” Hubbell said this weekend. “We’re just continuing to try to reach all the voters we can.”
Some of Boulton’s backers are publicly endorsing other candidates. State Representative Brian Meyer of Des Moines went to a Hubbell campaign event Saturday to announce his new choice. Meyer said Hubbell will be able to unify Democrats the day after the primary.
“What we need is everybody to fall in line and I think he’s the person that can bring everybody together,” Meyer said.
Candidate John Norris, a top aide to former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, on Sunday picked up the endorsement from another legislator who’d been backing Boulton. Norris said he is reaching out to Boulton’s supporters, but to undecided voters as well.
“We’ve got to move on. There’s still a race to decide here,” Norris said Sunday. “…The phone calls we’re making here to Democrats around the state show that they are really just starting to focus.”
More than two dozen labor unions had been backing Boulton, including the Iowa Federation of Labor and AFSCME Council 61, a union that represents government workers. Candidate Cathy Glasson of Coralvile, a local leader in the Service Employees International Union, has her union’s financial backing. She does not expect other union groups to announce they’re shifting to another candidate this close to the primary, but Glasson is making her pitch to undecided union members.
“If they haven’t voted already, we’ll definitely want to have those conversations,” Glasson said this weekend before an appearance at the CelebrAsian Festival in downtown Des Moines.
The third and final televised conversation among these candidates is this Wednesday, the 30th. The previous televised debate saw Hubbell, Norris, Glasson and Boulton throw a few negatives at one another. Candidate Andy McGuire, a physician, said Boulton’s absence at the event may change that dynamic.
“I’m not sure it helps us to drag each other down,” said McGuire, who did not attack Hubbell at the last debate. “…We might be better each telling our positive vision and letting the voters decide whose positive vision is best.”
With five rather than six candidates on stage, Norris said they may be able to “go a little bit deeper” into key issues.
“I certainly hope it’s a debate,” Norris told Radio Iowa. “Voters need to understand there are some differences and we look forward to pointing those out and letting the voters decide how they want to go.”
Glasson, who has focused on what she calls a “progressive” message, said her campaign isn’t any major changes to adjust to Boulton’s absence.
“We’ve always been a campaign that wanted to be bold and broad,” Glasson said, “and we’re just going to continue down that path.”
McGuire has refocused on her main pitch to Democrats.
“It might be good to have a woman on the ticket,” McGuire told Radio Iowa after speaking at the “soapbox” at the CelebrAsian Festival in Des Moines. “…I think it’s time for us in our party to have a woman nominee.”
Ross Wilburn, a former Iowa City mayor, said his main message, especially to Boulton’s supporters, is to “stay engaged.”
“The issues are the same. We’re got to get a Democratic governor and legislature in there,” said Wilburn, the other gubernatorial candidate to speak at the CelebrAsian Soapbox, “so get out and vote for one of us and let’s keep the momentum going through the fall.”
Hubbell, who made appearances in Des Moines Saturday and in Storm Lake on Sunday, is urging Democrats to focus on June 6th — and which candidate has the skills to unify the party.
“The first goal is to win the General Election,” Hubbell told Radio Iowa this weekend, “…and get to work taking on Governor Reynolds.”