Republican-turned-independent Senator David Johnson is endorsing Fred Hubbell for governor over Kim Reynolds today, the Hubbell campaign informed Starting Line this afternoon. Johnson left the Republican Party in June of 2016 over his disgust of Donald Trump’s nomination.
His backing of Hubbell over Governor Reynolds adds a new talking point for Hubbell in his attempt to win over independents and former Republicans who are frustrated with the direction of that party under Trump.
“Fred Hubbell and Senator Rita Hart are the leaders Iowans need to turn the page on the Reynolds Administration’s record of failure, and restore the services and quality of life that Iowans deserve,” Johnson said in a statement. “From the disastrous privatization of Medicaid, to ineffective attempts to clean up Iowa’s polluted rivers and lakes, to eroding the fundamental rights of workers, Iowans have had enough of their extreme partisan agenda. Everyday Iowans are being left behind. Fred and my colleague Senator Hart listen to Iowans. They will deliver forward-looking leadership that invests in our future. I stand behind their vision to get Iowa growing the right way.”
Johnson’s departure from the Republican Party made international news at the time. His Northwest Iowa district that covers Clay, Dickinson, Lyon, Osceola and Palo Alto counties is one of the most conservative in the state.
He began voting with Democrats on many key issues in the Iowa Senate over the past two years, a chamber in which Hubbell’s running mate Rita Hart was his colleague. Johnson was particularly outspoken on Reynolds’ Medicaid privatization and education funding.
This past week, Johnson publicly endorsed Democrat J.D. Scholten in the 4th District congressional race against Steve King. That was interesting enough, though King has long been hated by many moderate Republicans in the district. Johnson’s support for Hubbell over Reynolds is a more direct electoral rejection of the his former party’s platform and governance.
Johnson had, however, been a thorn in the Reynolds Administration’s side for some time after his defection from the party. Republican leaders reacted very harshly behind the scenes to his decision, and Johnson would later cause problems for Reynolds by questioning the legality of her appointment of her own lieutenant governor after she ascended to the governor’s office. That eventually led to Reynolds naming Adam Gregg as her “acting” lieutenant governor, with no real constitutional powers.
Johnson decided late in the cycle this year to not run for reelection, and a former staffer for Steve King is the Republican nominee to replace him in the Senate.
Johnson is planning to hit the campaign trail soon with Hubbell.
by Pat Rynard