U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s fourth annual Roast and Ride drew about 1,000 people Saturday to the Central Iowa Expo in Boone.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s fourth annual Roast and Ride drew about 1,000 people Saturday to the Central Iowa Expo in Boone.

June 12, 2018


A thousand people, many of them arriving on motorcycles and most firmly in the Republican camp, enjoyed pulled pork sandwiches and plenty of water on a warm Saturday at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone.

But the main menu item on U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s fourth-annual Roast and Ride: Fred Hubbell, the well-heeled Des Moines businessman who captured the Democratic nomination for governor last week.

Ernst and her close friend and fellow Republican, Gov. Kim Reynolds, slammed Hubbell as an effete, out-of-touch denizen of the better part of town — a man who lives in a world of “famous names” and “big checks” who they say can’t possibly understand the challenges and culture of everyday Iowans like them.

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican, tagged Hubbell, a member of one of Des Moines’ founding families, as “Sir Frederick Hubbell.” Kaufmann has previously called the Democratic gubernatorial candidate “Prince Frederick Hubbell.”

Ernst sought to draw strong class and cultural distinctions between Hubbell and Reynolds, a former Clarke County treasurer who grew up in St. Charles and worked as a waitress at Younkers and a checker at Hy-Vee, and graduated from Iowa State University late in life.

“The reason you make a difference, Kim, is because you are one of us,” Ernst said.

Ernst, for her part, grew up on a Montgomery County farm and is the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate.

“Kim is Iowa through and through,” Ernst said. “She has grown up just like you and I grew up.”

Reynolds blasted Hubbell for taking issue in a pre-primary Democratic debate with a U.S. News & World Report ranking Iowa as the top state in the nation.

“We’ve been to all 99 counties,” Hubbell said in that forum. “We’ve been listening to people for over a year now. And we’re getting a lot of input from them about how dissatisfied they are.”

“So what you are saying is that Iowa is not the best state in the nation as a place to live?” debate moderator Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register asked.

“Absolutely,” Hubbell said.

Both Reynolds and Ernst seized on that nuanced answer.

“The man that wants to lead this state told the entire country that Iowa is not the best place to live,” Reynolds said.

She added, “Well, Fred, if you don’t think Iowa is the best place to live, then you just don’t know Iowa.”

Reynolds said Iowans would reject a wealthy gubernatorial candidate who contributes heavily to his own campaign.

“If you think the governor’s office is for sale for the highest bidder, then you don’t know Iowans,” she said. “You don’t know Iowa, but I do. I know our state because I’ve seen what can happen when a small-town girl like me, and for all of you, can make their dreams come true. I’ve seen what can happen when you’re not afraid to chase to your dream. My story is the Iowa story.”

Ernst said Hubbell’s rejection of the No. 1 spot for Iowa shows he’s not as much of an Iowan at heart as Reynolds.

“Are you kidding me? We have a governor candidate running here in the state of Iowa who doesn’t think this is the best place to live,” Ernst said. “I have never heard of anything more ludicrous in my life.”

Ernst, riding solo, and Reynolds, who rode with her husband, Kevin, led 450 motorcyclists from Big Barn Harley in Des Moines to Boone. By 11 a.m., the riders began crossing one of the bridges over Saylorville.

The riders passed by the square in Polk County, then rode slowly through residential areas, including tracts of homes under construction. Ernst and Reynolds crossed over a bridge at Big Creek. Farmland flanked the next phase of the route with green fields of corn and soybeans, along with a few pastures and hay fields. Unlike previous years, there were no protesters along the route.

The proceeds from ticket sales from Ernst’s Roast and Ride will be donated to the Travis Mills Foundation, an organization that provides an all-inclusive, and all-expenses paid retreat for veterans and their families.

“Your story of service and sacrifice is an inspiration to us all, and your commitment to supporting fellow veterans from across the country — including right here in Iowa — is the true meaning of brotherly love,” Ernst said.

Despite losing portions of both arms and legs from an improvised explosive device (IED) while on active duty in Afghanistan, Mills, a retired Army staff sergeant, continues to overcome life’s challenges, breaking physical barriers and defying odds.

He also showcased a winning sense of humor Saturday.

“For the ladies out there, I see you checking out my legs,” joked Mills, who was wearing shorts that revealed his prosthetics. “I’m married. It’s just not going to happen.”

Ernst’s keynote speaker was South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy — who insisted he was not in Iowa to test a potential candidacy for the presidency. He delivered a homespun speech calling on the Republicans to stress hopeful messages — ones that are attractive to a larger sweep of America, including African-Americans.

“I want us to build something that lasts longer than an election cycle,” Gowdy said.

In response to a question from this newspaper after the motorcycles arrived, Ernst said she understood the motivation behind President Donald Trump’s assessment that Canada posed a “national security” threat to the United States. Trump used that as a rationale for tariffs on aluminum and steel from Canada.

“Well, I think our national debt is a security threat, and that means we need to get our trade in order,” Ernst said. “But Canada has been a little egregious when it comes to stealing thoughts and ideas from the United States. We need to figure that out.”

Reynolds and Kaufmann pointed out that Ernst has the president’s ear on trade and agricultural matters — which they see as a major boost to Iowa.

When Joni calls, President Trump listens,” Reynolds said.