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Boulton’s exit leaves Iowa governor candidates scrambling

May 27, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — As the Democratic primary race for Iowa governor heads into its final week before the June 5 election, there’s plenty of uncertainty and scrambling following state Sen. Nate Boulton’s abrupt departure from the contest.

The eventual nominee will attempt to unseat Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is facing her first bid to be governor after serving the remaining term of former Gov. Terry Branstad, now U.S. ambassador to China.

Here’s a look at where the race stands:

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BOULTON DEPARTURE

The race has been in a state of flux since The Des Moines Register reported last week that three women alleged Boulton, a Des Moines attorney, touched them inappropriately in incidents dating back more than a decade.

Within a day of the allegations being published, Boulton announced he’d suspended his campaign, creating an opportunity for the five remaining candidates to appeal to voters who had suddenly lost their first choice.

More than 13,500 Democrats had cast early votes by Wednesday, the day the Register report was published. That’s the equivalent of about 18 percent of turnout in the 2014 and 2010 Democratic primaries. It’s unclear how many of those early voters cast their ballots for Boulton, considered one of the leading candidates and whose name will remain on the ballot.

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DIFFERENT VIEWPOINTS

As Boulton supporters survey their remaining options, they’ll have a range of candidates to choose among.

Perceived front-runner Fred Hubbell, a retired businessman who has highlighted his private sector work and philanthropic contributions, has argued he has the most resources to take on Reynolds. He’s raised the most money — in part by donating millions of his personal wealth — and has used the financial advantage to flood television and radio airwaves for months.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted in mid-May showed three-fifths of Boulton’s supporters had a favorable view of Hubbell and one-fifth said Hubbell is the most likely to defeat Reynolds.

Union leader Cathy Glasson is expected to appeal to labor supporters who lined up behind Boulton, as well as those who favor progressive priorities such enacting a $15 hourly minimum wage. Some activists expressed a belief that voters may be more interested in a female candidate after the allegations against Boulton, which could help the women in the race, Glasson and physician Andy McGuire.

Longtime party activist John Norris and former Iowa City mayor Ross Wilburn have also prioritized issues that could appeal to Boulton’s supporters.

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STATE CONVENTION

Unless a candidate wins 35 percent of the primary vote, state law requires that the nomination be determined by delegates at a state convention.

The convention process involves old school political strategy — similar to Iowa’s precinct caucuses in the presidential primaries — where candidates try to position their supporters as delegates and lobby others to change their allegiances.

Such backroom deals among highly engaged party activists could lessen the advantage Hubbell has gained from his television and radio ads and result in a candidate gaining the nomination who received fewer votes in the primary. The Register/Mediacom poll showed Hubbell with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Boulton with 20 percent.

Boulton’s exit could give Hubbell the extra votes he needs to exceed the 35 percent threshold, but if it goes to a convention there are recent examples of the top vote-getter not winning the nomination.

That’s what happened in 2014, when the Republican 3rd District Congressional nomination went to a convention and delegates chose David Young, who had finished fifth in a six-way primary. Young went on to win the general election.

GOP Rep. Steve King followed a similar path to Congress in a four-way race in 2002, though he also placed first in the primary.

Other races this cycle — including a five-way Republican primary for secretary of agriculture and closely watched Democratic congressional contests — also could go to a convention.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Expect a last-minute scramble among the remaining campaigns for Boulton’s supporters. Even those who have already voted can volunteer and make donations. That outreach could involve one-on-one pitches, phone calls and other communication.

Some of Boulton’s labor support came from key groups like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61 and the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. They have not indicated publicly if they will endorse another candidate before the primary.

Candidates will participate in a final televised debate on Wednesday, giving would-be voters a new look at the redrawn race.

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