The Democratic field for Iowa Governor grew ever larger today with the introduction of a very well-known name: Fred Hubbell. The 66-year-old Des Moines businessman announced in a press release that he is officially exploring a statewide run, confirming rumors that have circulated Iowa politics for the past several weeks.
“The current Governor and Lt. Governor have failed miserably on their own job goals,” Hubbell said in a press release. “We need jobs in every county in this state – more jobs in more places. Iowans work hard and take care of each other. We deserve an economy that works for everyone, not just the sliver of people at the top. As Governor, I would offer my extensive leadership background and skills to put Iowa first and guide our state to real economic success.”
He has formed an exploratory committee, has a website up, and will consider a full run over the next few months as he travels the state.
Hubbell would enter the race with two major advantages: his business experience and long history of financially supporting progressive causes and Democratic candidates in Iowa.
He’s the sixth Democratic candidate in the race from Des Moines, but he holds a particularly special connection to the city: his family literally built it. The Hubbell name goes back a very long way in Iowa history. Were he to win the primary and general election, he’d be moving back into his family’s old home. Terrace Hill used to be the Hubbell family mansion from the late 1800s up to 1971, when it was given to the state of Iowa. The Des Moines Water Works was once another Hubbell-owned property.
He served as the chairman and CEO of Equitable of Iowa, a major insurance company, and lived in Amsterdam for a number of years when it was bought by a Dutch firm.
Hubbell is deeply connected in Iowa charitable circles – there’s very few programs that he or another Hubbell family member have donated to. They’ve been one of the biggest backers of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for years, and they’re big supporters of environmental causes. And nearly every major Iowa Democratic candidates for the past 30 years have had fundraisers hosted by the Hubbells.
He has some government management experience as well. Hubbell was appointed as the interim director for Iowa’s Department of Economic Development after the film tax credit scandal. Chet Culver tasked him with going in to clean up the troubled agency.
He will also have one very unique life story to tell on the campaign trail: he was once held hostage by terrorists in Pakistan. When he was 30 years old, a plane he and his wife, Charlotte, were on was hijacked and flown to Afghanistan and Syria. Charlotte was let go after a few days, but the terrorists held most of the passengers for over a week.
Any campaign run by Hubbell will have more than plenty of resources to compete. It’s unclear how much the Hubbell family is worth, but when they sold Equitable of Iowa – for which the family owned much of the stock – in 1997, it went for $2.2 billion.
How well Fred Hubbell is known outside of certain Des Moines circles, however, is yet to be seen. His entrance into the race complicates Andy McGuire’s ability to raise money from her Des Moines networks, and some groups might be hesitant to go too negative against Hubbell due to his financial backing for their causes for years. Few party activists around the state have ever seen him speak, so he’ll need to prepare well in order to impress once he starts getting out on the campaign trail.
by Pat Rynard