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SIOUX CITY -- Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell in a debate Wednesday said Trump administration tariffs on China have hurt Iowa farmers, while Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said producers understand the tariffs will ultimately improve the overall national economy.

The two opponents also discussed recent sexual harassment cases present in Iowa government during the hourlong debate in front of an estimated 300 people.

One of the three moderators asked if Hubbell and Reynolds support the direction of President Donald Trump's tariff moves on China, which have hurt soybean prices.

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Reynolds replied, "China has been sticking it to us for years," particularly with its theft of U.S. intellectual property, which is estimated at more than $5 billion annually.

Reynolds added that "farmers understand" the need "for short-term pain for long-term gain" in the economy.

Hubbell retorted, "We need a governor who will stand up for Iowans." He said the Trump tariffs have amounted to a "war" that is fought "on the back of Iowa farmers."

The trade war escalated further in September, with China announcing retaliatory tax increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports. The increases were in response to the U.S. announcing it will impose tariffs of 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made goods.

Moderator Ron Steele asked about high-profile sexual harassment cases, including in the state Legislature and the Iowa Finance Authority, saying it amounted to a "locker room atmosphere."

Hubbell said Reynolds was a state senator or in the executive branch for the last 10 years while those incidents occurred in a "toxic culture."

"We need to put in place a whistleblower process," he said, where an outside third party would investigate sexual harassment.

Reynolds said "we had a zero tolerance policy," which she enforced, by the firing of IFA director David Jamison. The governor terminated Jamison in March, after two women in the agency complained he was sexually harassing them. He had led the Iowa Finance Authority since 2011.

Reynolds also said that her administration was composed of a lot of strong women.

"I am not going to be lectured by a guy on sexual harassment," the governor said.

In a third issue on the night in which 10 subject areas were framed by moderators, Hubbell and Reynolds debated the level of K-12 school district funding.

Earlier this year, led by majority party Republicans, the Legislature approved a 1 percent increase for K-12 districts for the 2018-19 budget year, and the increase was set at 1.1 percent the prior year. The Sioux City School Board and other districts made cuts, citing insufficient revenues.

Hubbell was critical of those amounts, saying the cramped revenues harmed education in the state. Reynolds said, "We can't fall into the trap" of measuring the quality of education by the amount of funding directed to it.

Neither Hubbell nor Reynolds directly answered the question on what the rate of the state's supplemental aid to public school districts should be in 2019-20.

The two candidates sparred on issues, but the tone was civil and neither became demonstrative. Reynolds gave by far the most mention of Siouxland businesses and school programs.

Shay Anderson, a Morningside College freshman from Sergeant Bluff, was observing a live political debate for the first time.

"I think they were both very well informed," Anderson said, while giving the nod to Reynolds, since she said Hubbell was short on specifics on possible budget cuts.

Matthew Johnson, of Sioux City, said he was glad the candidates discussed tax credits and education. However, Johnson said the answers overall  were short of specifics.

"I didn't really feel like I learned a lot in this debate," Johnson said.

Reynolds is standing for her first election to a full governor term, after rising from the lieutenant governor position in 2017 after the resignation of Gov. Terry Branstad. The election is less than three weeks away, on Nov. 6.

In an Iowa Poll published by The Des Moines Register in the last month, Hubbell was chosen by 43 percent of likely voters and Reynolds 41 percent.

There is a Libertarian Party governor nominee, but Jake Porter was denied participation in the Sioux City debate. Porter stopped in Sioux City on Wednesday, and in an interview criticized debate hosts, who said he did not meet polling benchmarks established for candidates to participate.

The debate was held at Morningside College, and aired by KTIV in Sioux City, KWWL in Waterloo, and KTTC in Rochester, Minnesota. The first debate was held last week in Ankeny. A third gubernatorial debate is scheduled Sunday in Davenport.

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County & Education Reporter

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