Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hubler: Unlike King, I'm Not MSNBC's 'Worst Person In the World'

Western Iowa congressional candidate Rob Hubler, the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Steve King, hit seven county conventions in the 5th District Saturday with a speech designed to show party faithful they have a man ready for a fight with the controversial conservative Republican.

"The whole thing is that Mr. King is not a represenative of the district," Hubler told Iowa Independent in an interview.

In making the rounds at county conventions, Hubler said, "Yesterday, my message was totally at him."

Hubler estimates he spoke to a total of about 1,200 people at the conventions. And he said the partisan crowds were ready for his message about the controversial King. "We got great response," Hubler said.

King has developed a penchant for the limelight by making highly charged, provocative comments that many observers say jump far across the borders of robust political discourse into the arena of insult, racism and fanaticism.

"He is a direct opposite of what a representative is," Hubler said.

Just over a week ago, King made international news when he suggested U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the leading Democratic presidential candidate, would be something of a smash with terrorists because of the senator's middle name, Hussein, and the "optics" of a black man in the White House.

"The burning question on many people's minds is, what's my middle name?" joked Hubler in a speech he delivered seven times Saturday. "It's Louis."

After the King Obama slam hit the airwaves -- getting out of the gate in Spencer -- it shot around the world. In fact, on MSNBC's "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann listed King atop the "worst person in the world" segment.

Hubler referenced that in the interview, saying the district at the very least wouldn't be represented by someone with that infamous national title were he the congressman instead.

King's reputation offers Hubler potential fund-raising opportunities generally not available to Democrats in this rural district. Using the Internet and other avenues he can use the combustible King as a lure for liberal money from out of state -- or donations from people with no strong political affiliation who are outraged at the specifics of any number of King's remarks and looking for a way to vent.

"I see the race developing in the beginning that way," Hubler said.

But the retired Prebyterian minister from Council Bluffs has been campaigning with his own message for more than a year. He knows many people want to see King gone, and may jump parties or forget their independent-right-leaning ways to vote against the congressman. But they need a viable, respectable alternative, someone they could see in that role. Hubler said it's his job to make the case he's that man.

Retired Creston educator Joyce Schulte, 65, lost the last two elections by wide margins to King, R-Kiron. In 2006,  a weak year for Republicans that even saw the outster of Iowa icon Jim Leach in eastern Iowa, Kingpulled 58 percent of the vote to Schulte's 36 percent in the sprawling, 32-county western Iowa district. King spent $620,000 compared to just $73,000 for Schulte. Schulte is not running this year.

A son of a Presbyterian minister, Hubler, grew up in Council Bluffs, graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1961. He then joined the Navy where he served on nuclear submarines from 1962 to 1969.

As a veteran, Hubler said he has been appalled by reports of treatment of men and women in uniform at some health-care facilities.

Hubler said he views poverty as a main front in the war on terror.

He worked on some of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's first campaigns for the House in the early and mid-1970s, where he made contacts in wide swaths of western Iowa. He also served as an Iowa field office staff member for former Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Clark of Iowa.

Hubler did fund-raising for the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., and while in Illinois, Hubler gave U.S. Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, a powerful Illinois Democrat, one of his first jobs in politics. Hubler consulted on some campaigns in Colorado as well, including work for U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, who also ran for the presidency in 1984 before the campaign imploded over Hart's brazen showcasing of an alleged extramarital affair.

This story is crossposted at Iowa

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