Fred Hubbell Announces He’s Exploring A Gubernatorial Run

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
Posted 5/9/17

5 Comments on "Fred Hubbell Announces He’s Exploring A Gubernatorial Run"

  • Wow…from crickets to a field bursting at the seams with some great-sounding candidates (an potential candidates) and some also-rans. I still favor (at this time) Nate Boulton, but Hubbell sounds like he could have an inside track since has history not just in Des Moines. Interesting times for Dems!

  • Seldom do I ever get REAL excited by a candidate for anything! Probably because I can mentally come up with some factual or imagined reason they should/could NOT be elected. I was ecstatic to learn of Fred considering a run for the democratic nomination for governor. The key to winning this election will be”life experiences.” Fred has had them to a degree that few could imagine! Aside from serving as CEO and President of Equitable, his travels and associations have provided he and wife Charlotte with a myriad of experiences that exceed those of all other candidates…..collectively.

    Fred Hubbell is a worker, highly intelligent, willing to take on any challenge, as compassionate as you will find, and thoroughly understanding of the plights of the citizenry! How could that be, you say? As a life-long Iowan, that is just who he is! Yes, a family of great means, but that is a key to his potential to be elected and serve as governor! Hard work, carrying on the family name and business, and understanding that success comes from giving, not from taking. Not that anyone particularly gives a hoot about my enthusiasm for anyone…..I’m just moved to herein identify my conviction that should Fred Hubbell run for the nomination, and should he be elected as our standard bearer, Democrats will have a winner!

  • Who really thinks this is the right moment for an old, rich, white former insurance executive from Des Moines? Does anything scream “establishment” more than that? Are we hoping the anti-establishment moment has run its course just because Trump is a disaster? I have great respect for Hubbell, and he’ll add another good voice in the primaries, and I think he’d do a fine job if he were governor — but I think nominating him would be a bad move given the dynamics of this cycle. And it really wouldn’t hurt to start handing the baton to the next generation of leaders, people who can excite the younger voters who have often skipped non-Presidential elections. Having an older generation stay in offices too long and freeze out opportunities is how we found ourselves with such a weak bench the last few cycles. We appear to finally be solving that problem with people like Boulton, Prichard, even Norris is 12-15 years younger — I’d hate to see us go backwards.

  • I can’t think of a more qualified and capable candidate than Fred. I admire Fred’s commitment to community service and to enter politics at an age when many are considering retirement.

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