October 30, 2018

Remember being in middle school, and at first, you didn’t like a fellow student — or think you would?

Maybe you fought on the playground. Sniped in gym class.

But as we all know, many friendships, or at least relationships of respect, develop this way.

And that is where we find ourselves with gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell. At first blush, upon our cursory reading of Hubbell’s biography, we thought, ‘This is not the guy for our part of Iowa. He’s too urban, too rich, too removed from the rhythms of rural life’ — essentially the portrait his opponents are seeking to paint with tens of millions of dollars in television advertising beaming from screens in all 99 counties.

We went at Hubbell with double-barreled questioning — even taking two reporters to our first meeting with him in Des Moines. We pushed him on the issues, and probably reached too far at times (we pressed Hubbell on his Christian faith with a battery of questions that is not our finest moment).

What we found was not what we expected, and that’s why he earns this newspaper’s endorsement for governor today.

Very specifically, we think Hubbell will be a strong force for rural economic development. He can’t rely on the easy cultural connectivity of Gov. Kim Reynolds or Sen. Joni Ernst to build support in our counties. We’ll never really accept Hubbell as one of us, a rural Iowan — which means Hubbell has to win us over by actually delivering on rural economic progress and programs. And he’s well positioned to do just that.

Hubbell has called for changing Department of Transportation decision-making that currently benefit the interstate corridors at the expense of Highway 30 four-laning. And he backs decentralizing state government jobs, referencing Carroll and Shenandoah as potential locations for a more expansive look at how agencies can boost Iowa.

Then there are the tax credits. How does it make sense for the State of Iowa to continue with the use of millions of dollars in tax credits for the golden ringing of Des Moines with data centers and other tech goodies while we are left to pick up the scraps with super-long commutes or some notion of state-capital pride?

We have long argued at this newspaper that government is best judged by how it treats its youngest and oldest and most vulnerable.

Spend some time at New Hope in Carroll, or with other people who require Medicaid. The privatization of Medicaid is catastrophic, New Hope executive director Rhonda Mart and others in the health-care field we have known for decades tell us. The people who bear the brunt of this aren’t just those at New Hope with disabilities, but the 400 employees who work with them as the privatization limits their salaries and benefits, making already challenging jobs even more challenging.

Hubbell is unequivocal in his call to move quickly from Medicaid privatization back to a state-run system. It’s the biggest policy issue in the election. His opponent, Gov. Reynolds, continues to defend the switch in Iowa from state-run Medicaid to contracts with national for-profit managed organizations. That’s a change that makes Iowa one of only two states (along with Kansas) out of the 39 states with managed-care programs with Medicaid that don’t keep people with disabilities in a state-run program. It’s a change that we’ve heard many times has hurt residents in this area.

Finally, there is the matter of temperament.

We see in Hubbell a man who brings a dignified, substance-filled approach to public service in the tradition of Robert Ray and Art Neu and Tom Vilsack.

As much as anything, this endorsement rests on our strong belief that Hubbell will restore a foundational intelligence and decency to our politics, elements we believed had long been lost to the impulse swamp of social-media insults and the fevered recriminations thumbed to millions of smartphones.