Fred Hubbell is releasing a new TV ad today for his gubernatorial bid, taking aim at Governor Kim Reynolds’ $20 million tax credit deal to bring just 50 jobs to Iowa. In it, the Des Moines businessman knocks Republicans’ continuing trend of emptying the state’s budget by paying out tens of millions of tax dollars to entice already-successful businesses to locate here.
“We’ve seen this show before – giveaways to out-of-state companies that don’t need them. I came in and helped clean up the film tax credit scandal,” Hubbell says in the ad. “I helped put an end to these taxpayer giveaways once and I’ll do it again. It’s time we start growing Iowa the right way.”
Hubbell often likes to point out that he hasn’t ever run for elected office before, helping distance himself from the usual political scene. But the work that he did do in Iowa’s government – stepping in to lead the beleaguered Department of Economic Development – does tie in nicely with one of Reynolds’ biggest vulnerabilities.
Democrats were extremely critical of the Apple deal when it was first announced back in August, and how much the state pays out for some of these companies has been controversial for years. The Apple deal could prove extremely so for several reasons. For one, everyone knows of Apple and knows that it’s already financially successful, raising the question of why they need incentives. This particular deal could also be used to drive a wedge between Republicans and their rural base – Reynolds’ economic incentives have been heavily focused on boosting the already-booming Des Moines suburbs at the expense of struggling small towns.
“Governor Reynolds repeatedly has made shortsighted and bad economic deals, like the Apple deal that gave away $20 million in state incentives for just 50 permanent jobs – that’s $400,000 per job,” the Hubbell campaign said in a press release on the ad. “These types of tax giveaways have been a contributing factor to Iowa’s financial woes, news that is especially troubling as the state continues to tighten its belt with underfunding and severe cuts to health care and education.”
It’s also interesting in that it signals that Hubbell’s campaign will take the issue of tax credits head on (which he has for a while). In the past, more cautious Democrats might have steered away from this argument out of fear of being labeled by Republicans as anti-jobs. This cycle, the party seems united in its effort to hold Republicans accountable for the real drawbacks these incentive deals have.
It will be interesting to see if and how Reynolds’ campaign responds. This latest Hubbell ad is a much more direct and sharp criticism of the governor – one that could start to impact her polling numbers in the state if left unchallenged. Hubbell’s first two ads were softer introductions of Hubbell and his wife. The second one focused on mental healthcare and hit the “governor” for slashing funding, but didn’t mention Reynolds by name or show her like this new one does. This ad is one that you might see in the closing weeks of a general election.
Republicans’ original game plan was probably to just watch the Democratic primary field develop, rolling out their own positive ads on Reynolds on their own timetable. But having critical ads run against you in heavy statewide rotation eleven months out from the election might change that. Hubbell could (and probably will) pummel Reynolds all during the legislative session on the airwaves, driving up the negatives for her and the bills the Republicans are passing and she’s signing as they happen.
That will require a response from Reynolds’ campaign team. How will they handle that? Simply defend herself or toss barbs back Hubbell’s way? It’s typically a foolish idea to go after potential opponents when the other side is still in a primary since the person you attack may not be the nominee. But Hubbell presents a tricky problem for them.
Meanwhile, many other Democratic candidates have been frustrated with Hubbell’s well-financed operation, but it’s noteworthy that he’s providing air cover to soften up Reynolds very early in the race. That’s something Democrats would not have had at their disposal this soon otherwise – and is helpful to whoever ends up winning the primary.
Hubbell’s ad is a statewide buy that will begin airing today.
by Pat Rynard