The Daily Times Herald is endorsing Fred Hubbell in the Iowa gubernatorial Democratic primary race.
The Daily Times Herald is endorsing Fred Hubbell in the Iowa gubernatorial Democratic primary race.

Farmer and ag-businessman Tom Wind put something into words we’d been thinking in covering Fred Hubbell’s campaign for governor.

A retired engineer who operates a 160-acre home farm near Jefferson, Wind served on the Iowa Power Fund Board with Hubbell, a member of one of Iowa’s founding families running for governor as a Democrat.

Wind, noting former GOP Gov. Robert Ray and Hubbell come from different ideological perspectives, drew a style-and-substance comparison between Hubbell and Ray.

“I think that Fred has the ability and the character to be a good governor,” Wind said. “He’s kind of like Bob Ray in that regard. He’s just universally respected for what he does.”

Mr. Wind’s character comparison is insightful, and we extend it even more locally. Hubbell conducts himself in the statesmanlike manner of the late Lt. Gov. Art Neu, bringing a dignified, intelligent bearing into our politics we believed had long been lost to the impulse swamp of social media insults and the fevered recriminations thumbed to millions of smartphones.

Fred Hubbell brings an all-Iowa eye to his campaign, a balance of business, government and charitable work, an understanding of the dynamics of Des Moines and Dunlap. We trust him to be what is No. 1 on our list: an able advocate for rural Iowa — a leader who sees opportunities and energy in Carroll and Greene and Guthrie counties where others dismiss us as mere feeder lots for the growing suburbs rimming Des Moines.

The Daily Times Herald today endorses Fred Hubbell in the Democratic primary race for governor.

We’ve interviewed Hubbell dozens of times and covered him at numerous events, from tours of local organizations like St. Anthony Regional Hospital to the cutting-edge Biokinemetrics, a hive of health-care technology in Carroll, to the Bill and Melissa Frederick farm in Greene County. Hubbell asks educated questions and spends the vast majority of his time in such interactions listening rather than talking.

There is a throwback decency to Hubbell, a trait Iowa desperately needs as the canyon between rural and urban interests is expanding to the point where, soon, one side won’t even be able to hear the other yell.

In our earliest interviews with Hubbell, this newspaper, being an unabashed voice for rural Iowa, went at Hubbell with jagged-edged questions all designed to expose him as creature of the Des Moines establishment not fit for rural consumption.

We found a very different man than we expected. We think other rural Iowans have a similar take, judging by the crowds Hubbell is drawing in smaller communities.

Rural people take it at face value that Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, she of bread-bagged feet and skilled at the cutting of hogs, are warriors for small-town Iowa, our rural reaches. Look the part, be the part.

Reynolds’ cultural connections are so strong that she never actually has to deliver for rural Iowa. What’s more, Reynolds is easily co-opted by urban forces and the Des Moines power center.

But Hubbell, a scion of a founding Iowa family tied to pioneering and still-flourishing Iowa businesses, can’t rely on biography and Maid-Rite moments with rural Iowans.

He has to deliver results for rural Iowa, and fast, to earn anything in the way of trust here.

Having chaired the Iowa Power Fund, which invested in renewable energy across Iowa, and led other organizations, Hubbell knows the state well.

He also knows how to use money. And really, how many can people say that — with evidence?

Hubbell knows the state’s future depends on widening growth beyond its largest cities and the sprawl of suburban life.

“If we don’t make sure that those strong areas are supported by good, strong communities also, then ultimately, the strength and ability to grow in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Ames and Iowa City is going to decline,” Hubbell said. “Iowa can’t sustain itself on the strength of two cities better than Des Moines could sustain itself just having strong suburbs.”

There’s something else Hubbell can do for rural Iowa. He’s the very essence of the Des Moines establishment. That said, Hubbell can tell capital-city interests “no” in favor of boosting rural Iowa.

Fred Hubbell has looked us in the eye and told us he’ll do just that. We believe him.

He’s already talking of decentralizing state government, of moving jobs from Des Moines to places like Carroll and Shenandoah.

“It would create more balance in our thought processes,” he said. “We could create more jobs in rural Iowa and put more kids in the schools, and it’s a win-win for the state.”

Hubbell added, “It’s a different approach, but I have these kinds of ideas. We need to be willing to look at these kinds of approaches, because what we’re doing isn’t working.”

Hubbell said the state could have more effectively leveraged $120 million of tax credits for data centers around Des Moines. The same money could have been used to bring high-speed internet services to all of Iowa through incentives to local telecommunications companies, opening up opportunities including the decentralization of state government, he said.

We can keep electing people “just like us” in rural Iowa who aren’t capable of doing the big things we need for a viable rural future. Or we can be more smart, tactical, and look to hire based on performance, not who connected with us over a drink the night before the actual job interview.

There also is the reality of fundraising and building effective campaign organizations. Hubbell has shown surpassing ability on both fronts. Democrats need to consider viability for a general election in November if Iowa is truly to have a choice rather than a repeat of some of the recent Republican trouncings in statewide races.

Iowans deserve a competitive election in November. We are in danger in rural Iowa of being treated the same way by Republicans as black voters in Detroit or Atlanta are by Democrats — as sure-thing votes, people to be taken for granted as part of a political base and ignored later.

Whether it is on jobs, expansion of technology or improving health care, Fred Hubbell is making forlorn rural parts of our state central to his bid in the Democratic primary.

Fred Hubbell, based on demonstrated political skill in the primary and the resume to actually lead if elected, is the best selection for Democrats in the June 5 gubernatorial primary.