I spent Wednesday trying to pin down the young and ambitious.
First, I hoped to check in with Christian Fong, the brain drain-plugging guru and rising conservative star from Cedar Rapids who is being mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for governor. With all these western Iowans running, I was wondering if Eastern Iowa might have a horse in the race.
I also tried to confirm rumors that Cedar Rapids City Council member Brian Fagan will jump into the mayor’s race any minute now. I was wondering when we might get a second candidate, or whether Ron Corbett should go ahead and order bubbly.
“I don’t have an announcement today,” Fagan said. “I’m committed to building a great Cedar Rapids. There’s no speculation there.”
Fong is showing up on long lists of potential GOP candidates. “I’m flattered to be on the list,” Fong said. “I’m not ready to make any comments on my plans.”
Not everyone’s convinced he’s ready to be governor.
“Fong serves on the Generation Iowa Commission, and while that’s all fine and dandy, he has no business being on a list of potential gubernatorial candidates as of this moment,” blogger Krusty Konservative wrote.
Sure, Fong is young. He’d be 33 on Election Day. Iowa’s youngest governor, Terry Branstad, was 37 when he won in 1982. He also had three terms in the Iowa House and was a sitting lieutenant governor.
But Fong has an eye-catching resume. He graduated at 16 from a small-town high school in western Iowa before going on to earn an MBA at Dartmouth. He’s marketing director for capital markets at AEGON USA and leads Corridor Recovery, a web-based tool coordinating recovery info and efforts. He’s chairman of the Generation Iowa Commission, which is looking for ways for keeping educated young people from bolting for the coasts.
Fong has given speeches across Iowa and is a regular at the Statehouse. He tweets, blogs and has written solid analysis pieces on several big issues. He’s married to a former schoolteacher, has three young kids, is a deacon at his church and competes in triathlons.
Maybe it is too soon. But he might make a fine running mate for a nominee looking for a young outsider.
Fagan, 37, once didn’t seem comfortable with the idea of running for mayor. But recently, he sounds more and more like a candidate. He’s bright and well-versed on issues. Council experience could be a liability, but it also provides valuable insights.
Corbett and Fagan likely will differ on several big issues, giving voters a real choice. And that’s really what matters.