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Hubbell Treated As Front-Runner During Live Debate, Criticisms Follow

JOHNSTON, Iowa--The six Iowa Democrats running for governor mixed it up at times, with most of it involving the perceived front-runner Fred Hubbell, during their only live, televised statewide debate of the campaign Wednesday night at Iowa Public Television in Johnston.

Cathy Glasson, a former nurse and union activist; Nate Boulton, a Des Moines state senator; and John Norris, the former chair of the Iowa Utilities Board, all criticized Hubbell, a former business leader and philanthropist.

Glasson pointed out that Hubbell gave campaign donations to State Representative Peter Cownie, a West Des Moines Republican. Hubbell defended the donations and said that while he disagreed with Cownie's vote to help ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (the main point of Glasson's criticism), Hubbell said he considers the Cownies to be family friends.

Boulton and Norris criticized Hubbell for his four-month stint in 2010 as interim Director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development during Governor Chet Culver's administration. As director, Hubbell helped oversee millions in tax credits to businesses. Democrats these days have been especially critical of tax credits as their use has increased and the state budget has been strained at a time of several emergency spending cuts over the past two years. Hubbell has said, as governor, he would limit the use of tax credits and review them to determine which ones should be discontinued.

Andy McGuire, a Des Moines physician, and Ross Wilburn, former mayor of Iowa City, avoided criticizing fellow candidates. McGuire stressed her experience in health care and pledged to restore full funding for programs delivered by Planned Parenthood. Wilburn called for more efforts to fight sex trafficking.

All of the Democrats pledged to repeal the fetal heartbeat bill, the Republican-led effort to ban most abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, which is generally around six weeks of gestation. They also promised to undo Republican actions to privatize Medicaid delivery services.

Only Norris and Wilburn promised to repeal the Republican tax reform package passed during the recently concluded legislative session.

Watch the full debate here.