Iowa gubernatorial candidates face off in lone debate


Screenshot via Iowa Press Debates PBS

The debate hosted by Iowa Press Debates between Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds and Democratic candidate Deidre DeJear was held at a round table.

Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear went head-to-head on the issues regarding reproductive rights and student loan forgiveness, during the only debate before the election.

Reynolds, an Iowa native, has been in office since 2017. Reynolds is the first woman to be elected as Governor of Iowa. DeJear, born in Mississippi, moved to Iowa to attend Drake University. DeJear started Caleo Enterprises, a management consultancy company which aims to help small businesses grow.


Reynolds said the state should do everything we can to protect the life of the unborn, referring to a 2018 law she signed which bans abortions at six weeks.

Reynolds mentioned pilot programs focused on maternal healthcare, safe haven laws, providing birth control over the counter and making sure people know about adoption as an option during conversations about abortions.

“Over the summer, when SCOTUS decided to relinquish their responsibility to protect a woman’s rights to choose to the states, it became evermore clear that governors were on the front line in protecting this right,” DeJear said.

DeJear shared the story of her mother who passed away three days after giving birth to her sister. If elected to governor, DeJear said she would not criminalize women or medical care providers for administering abortions.

“I believe that it is undemocratic and irresponsible for us to try to dictate in black and white this situation that has infinite variables as it relates to pregnancy,” DeJear said. “I want to codify Roe in our state.”

Reynolds asked DeJear about whether or not she supports late term abortion. DeJear said she believes her personal beliefs and the opinions of any other politician should not be in the doctor’s office.

Student loan forgiveness

Reynolds said student loan forgiveness is wrong because removing debt does nothing to combat the cost of education and encourages bad borrowing practices.

“It’s not right; it’s not fair—people are upset about it,” Reynolds said. “There were Democrats, as well as Republicans, that disagreed with the program that [President Joe Biden] put in place.”

Reynolds said she, her husband and her children all paid off their student debt, even if it meant her children were working while in school.

DeJear said she believes that investment in education goes beyond K-12. She mentioned the shortage of educators and healthcare workers, and how helping Iowans afford those degrees is creating a pathway to accessible higher education while helping the shortages.

Reynolds mentioned community colleges and apprenticeship programs as ways to avoid the high cost of college.

Childcare and taxes

While discussing a recent state budget surplus, DeJear said the excess money should be used to serve Iowans through investing in childcare, education and mental health resources—areas where her supporters believe the state has fallen short.

Reynolds spoke about increasing in daycare capacity and her vision of school choice as ways that she is improving the lives of Iowans while keeping a surplus.

“We were able to not only cut taxes but make record investments in K-12 education, in broadband, in childcare and in housing, and in addition to that we still had a surplus,” Reynolds said.

DeJear said using tax dollars effectively is important to make a system that works for low to moderate-income Iowans and create economic sustainability.

“We can boast about our surplus—we have to think about at what cost,” DeJear said. “We see the degradation to our education system; we are asking our systems to do more with a lot less. That surplus is evidence that the Iowa taxpayer dollar is not going to work; it is just being hoarded.”

DeJear said she believes effective taxing will improve life for Iowans, which means investing more in childcare, mental health resources and education.

“We want to make sure that we are maximizing every single one of your taxpayer dollars to work for you,” DeJear said.

Reynolds said she is proud about investing $500 million into childcare, adding she has expanded child care to 10,500 slots across the state.

She said she recently awards a business incentive grant. This is aimed to encourage businesses to create on-site childcare, or have local daycares reserve openings for businesses. Reynolds said this will serve as a recruitment tactic for businesses as well as create stability for childcare providers.

Reynolds said she wants Iowans to get their money back if the state has been overcollecting.

“We are always looking at ways we can help working families keep more of their hard earned money,” Reynolds said “We want to continue to be competitive. We want business and people staying in the state, and a tax environment is a big reason for them to do that.”

Reynolds said that at a time where inflation is at a 40-year high, tax increases would not be appropriate.

“I’m very proud of the fact that I was able to sign my third tax cut into law since taking office,” Reynolds said. “We were taxing like a blue state; we weren’t competitive.”

DeJear said rather than cutting taxes, the government is now in a position where they should invest in Iowans.

“I believe those tax cuts were short-sided, especially in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of social unrest and a derecho,” DeJear said. “I believe these were the moments for us to invest our resources and maximize the potential of the Iowa dollar.”

Mental health

During her term, Reynolds shifted mental health funding from a county property tax levy to a state allocation, which she said was to increase access to mental healthcare resources.

DeJear said as she goes into schools and talks with people on the campaign trail, people ask for more access to mental health resources. DeJear said that the lack of available beds and mental healthcare workers holds Iowans back from getting the mental healthcare they need.