INDIANOLA, Iowa — The Iowa gubernatorial race is gaining speed as candidates continue to announce their run for governor and campaign, including three with Simpson ties: two alumni and one former chair of the board of trustees who will be competing in the Democratic primary next June.
State Sen. Nate Boulton, a Democrat from Des Moines, and John Norris, a longtime Democratic political figure, graduated from Simpson’s political science program, and each had class with professor John Epperson.
Boulton started out his political career as a lawyer representing workers’ rights, such as “women facing discrimination, injured workers and the mentally disabled,” according to his website. Boulton was elected state senator in 2016, representing northeast Des Moines and Pleasant Hill. He has focused on issues regarding workers’ rights, public education and the economy.
Norris has been actively involved in politics since he graduated Simpson, working for legislators, coalitions, campaigns and the Iowa Democratic Party. Norris was appointed by former President Barack Obama as commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to focus on building cleaner, more efficient energy, according to his website. Norris is currently the co-owner of State Public Policy Group.
Des Moines entrepreneur Fred Hubbell has led large businesses and promoted renewable energy and economic growth. He was the chairman of Younkers and president of Equitable of Iowa. He was also the chairman of the Iowa Power Fund, which invested state funds into renewable energy. Hubbell was later the interim director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development in which he promoted economic growth, according to his website.
“I think it gives credence to the idea that we are a place for politics in Iowa that people look to as not just having lots of events through the Culver Center, but that we produce political leaders out of our programs,” said Kedron Bardwell, chair of the political science department.
Hubbell did not graduate from Simpson, but he saw the school as a place of success and worth investing in as the chair of the board of trustees. Hubbell and his wife, Charlotte, gave $4 million to Simpson to help build the Kent Campus Center. In return, Hubbell Hall was named after them.
“He saw Simpson as a place that was worthy of investing his time as a civic institution,” Bardwell said. “He saw (Simpson) aligned with the values he had related to political and social progressivism.”
All candidates have invested time to Simpson, even coming to campus to film advertisements, donate money and teach classes as an adjunct professor.
Each candidate has proven to be a prominent candidate for governor, which will help raise the visibility of Simpson.
“As we get closer to the end of the campaign, it will just be another connection that people make in their minds: Simpson plus politics,” Bardwell said.
The hope is more students will get involved in the gubernatorial election through internships and voting. Most students are not as active in state and local elections compared to the presidential election, Bardwell said.
“We certainly hope that all candidates for governor will visit campus,” said Seth Andersen, director of the John C. Culver Public Policy Center, in an email. “The Culver Center also plans to invite all gubernatorial candidates to participate in forums and debates next spring, as the June primary election draws nearer.”
Just over 50 percent of eligible college students voted in the 2016 election, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement at Tufts University. Voter turnout among college age students is low, especially in local elections.
“The fact that (local or state campaigns) are low turnout races means that your vote proportionally actually counts more compared to the number who might vote in the presidential election,” Bardwell said.
The Culver Fellows and the ambassadors for Vote Everywhere are working hard to get students registered to vote on campus and encourage turnout in the upcoming election, Andersen said.
Students interested in registering to vote should contact Vote Everywhere ambassadors Olivia Anderson, Danielle Bates or Elizabeth Mixon.
Each campaign offers internship opportunities and other opportunities to work for the campaign. Students interested in joining a campaign should contact the Culver Center or Simpson College Democrats.