Tag Archives: Christian Fong

ChetChase 2010 – The Week

It was a very active week in the race to become your Iowa governor.

Party of Five — Five Republican gubernatorial candidates/near-hopefuls/explorers met in a forum sponsored by Iowa Politics.com. If you couldn’t be there, I was not, Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson graciously posted the audio here.

There were gobs of agreement between Bob Vander Plaats, Chris Rants, Rod Roberts, Jerry Behn and Christian Fong. Another possible possibility, Paul McKinley, had a conflict and couldn’t make it.

They’re not crazy about the smoking ban, but nobody showed much interest in relighting that coffin nail.

Casinos? No more needed. State Budget? Chet messed it up big time. Medical marijuana? No thanks, although Sen. Behn, R-Boone, did wax nostalgically about the days of kinder, gentler pot. That’s just what he heard, anyway.

Speaking of nostalgia, the candidates were asked whether they’d welcome former Gov. Terry Branstad in the race. Polls show the old guy is still fly with folks who still use the term “fly.”

Here is the candidates’ composite answer, “I’d welcome such a fine statesman’s ideas. But, please, don’t dilly dally. Oh, and I’d just like to say future, future, future, future, future and, in conclusion, future.”

I wrote about the Branstad saga.

Kathie Obradovich did a better job here.

There were some disagreements at the forum. Rep. Roberts, R-Carroll, was the only one who doesn’t favor reinstating the death penalty. And although they all dislike gay marriage, only Vander Plaats thinks you can stop it with a magical/illegal executive order.

I guess Vander Plaats hasn’t explained to his rivals just how much fun impeachment would be.

So who won? You got me. Fong showed that he can hold his own and doesn’t need any training wheels. Rants had the best command of the issues. Vander Plaats didn’t stumble, but he also didn’t offer much evidence to prove why he’s the clear front-runner at this early date.

2. Roberts Fails to Tweet — What’s up with Rod Roberts, thinking he can get into the governor’s race with a thougthful speech to a room full of supporters that was all wordy with bio and viewpoints and stuff. Doesn’t he know he was supposed to send out a tweet?

Roberts does have a Web site, with a cool flag that waves. Neat!

3. That’s not My Name — Christopher Rants, who did tweet his announcement, is now Chris Rants, for the purposes of running for Iowa’s highest office. And he has a new Web site. It’s orange and blue, like the national champion Florida Gators. No waving flag, but there’s an odometer to show you how fast he’s wearing out his car.

He Chris, time for an oil change!

4. If I had $100,000 — I’d send out a press release, just like Christian Fong did earlier this week. His campaign reports raising that tidy sum in just its first three weeks of existence.

So who gave him the money? It’s a mystery that won’t be solved until disclosure supports are filed in January. Suspense is already building.

Perhaps the whiz kid will  use some of that scratch to finish his Web site.

5. Chetanooga Choo Chooo — Gov. Chet Culver will be riding the rails Sunday to officially promote passenger rail service. Any resemblance to a campaign whistle stop tour is completely coincidental.

Culver also started handing out I-Jobs bonding dollars for road and bridge projects. But then some pesky economists interviewed by The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth questioned whether the huge program would actually stimulate anything.  

What? The governor couldn’t hear that over all the train noise. Sorry.

Retrolection 2009 — Democrat Harold Hughes and Republican Robert Ray were the big winners in last week’s retro gubernatorial primaries.

Hughes took 48 percent of the vote, holding off Tom Vilsack with 26 percent. Herschel Loveless and Ansel Briggs tied for third. Culver was 5th.

On the GOP side, Ray took 40 percent to Branstad’s 29. Samuel Kirkwood got 15 percent.

That sets up a dream Ray-Hughes match up.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Go Changin’

State Rep. Christopher Rants stopped by my office Tuesday afternoon for a chat. I’ll be columnizing on our conversation over the weekend.

I’ve been writing about Rants for 12 years, since I was a cub Statehouse reporter for his hometown Sioux City Journal. And during all that time he’s been Christopher Rants.

House Majority Leader Christopher Rants, House Speaker Christopher Rants, House Minority Leader Christopher Rants etc.

Now that he’s exploring/running for governor, he’s going by Chris Rants.

I gave him some mild guff for making me change my ways. He explained.

“We walked around and…what do people assume my name is? They meet me for the first time?” Rants asked me.

“Chris,” I conceded.

“Exactly,” Rants said.  “I’ve got 2 million people I’m trying to meet. So you don’t start by telling them, `No, my name is something else.’

“It’s the name that my teachers in school called me. My Sunday school teacher called me Chris. My neighbors call me Chris. So it’s not like it’s a big deal.”

No, it’s not. And it could be worse. He could have shortened it to C-Ra or something like that. Chris also takes up less space than Christopher, which is a bonus for a columnist trying to squeeze his long-winded pontifications into a shrinking piece of newspaper real estate.

And lots of politicians make little changes when they think about climbing the political ladder. It’s not unusual.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, lost his mustache and updated his discount wardrobe a few years ago when he toyed with the idea of running for governor.  Former Senate President Jeff Lamberti, R-Ankeny, also shaved his mustache before he ran for Congress in 2006.

Names sometimes get shorter. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Conn. insisted that Iowans just call him Joe when he ran for president in 2004. It made him so appealing here that he opted to skip the caucuses.

The pretentious-sounding Malcom Stevenson Forbes Jr. became just good old flat-taxing Steve Forbes when he tried, twice, to win the caucuses.

The emerging 2010 GOP gubernatorial field is full of short names – Bob (Vander Plaats), Rod (Roberts), Paul (McKinley), Jerry (Behn) and Chris (Rants). Vander Plaats has run for governor enough times to also earn the JFK-esque shorthand moniker “BVP”

Christian (Fong) is an exception, but his name has its obvious advantages.  

And of course the winner will be up against Democratic Gov. Chet, not Chester, Culver.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Stupid System

Christian Fong’s campaign for governor sent out a news release today trumpeting that the Cedar Rapids Republican raked in $100,000 in campaign donations in the three weeks since he jumped into the race.

Swell. Then I sent a reply to Victory Enterprise’s Brian Dumas, who sent the release, asking  if he has a  list of donors and donations. He replied:

We do, but we will file when required by law and at that time you’ll be able to review the disclosure and see the numbers are accurate.

Unfortunately, the time required by law is Jan. 19, 2010. So trumpet in July, check back in January.

Of course, it goes without saying, that the real story is exactly who gave to Fong and how much they gave.  And, obviously, 1,000 $100 donations would say one thing about Fong’s campaign and four $25,000 donors would tell an entirely different story.

Instead, we get a big number and some happy talk about how Fong’s campaign is off and running.

To be fair, Fong’s campaign is simply playing a time-honored game, by the rules as written. But I say it’s the rules need changing.

Every time I hear people talk about complex campaign finance reforms and tight limits and public financing, I roll my eyes. All I want is a system where candidates, especially statewide candidates,  are required to report often. Once a month. Maybe once a week.

Why should a half-dozen-and-growing field of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, and Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, be able to shake the money tree all through 2009 and not report a dime until 2010? They shouldn’t.

Paid for by Ranting Hacks for Openness.

Fong’s release is below:

Fong Raises $100,000 in three weeks.

For Immediate Release: July 21, 2009 Contact: Marlys Popma 515-238-6564

(Cedar Rapids, IA) The campaign of Cedar Rapids businessman Christian Fong (R) announced today it had crossed the $100,000 mark in financial contributions. Fong launched his campaign three weeks ago.

“Despite an economic recession and a multi-candidate field, Christian has surpassed his initial targets in regards to fundraising. The $100,000 number is not commitments or pledges, but checks that have been written. Christian’s vision of restoring the Iowa Dream is being well received and Republicans are responding,” said Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager.

Popma continued, “Considering Christian entered this race with no donor base, crossing this early threshold is a clear indicator that the campaign is off and running. We know we have a long way to go to reach our internal primary fundraising goals, but our quick start is extremely encouraging.”

Christian Fong graduated from Underwood High School in Southwest Iowa at the age of 16 and then attended Creighton University, graduating at age 19. After college, he and his wife, Jenelle, located in Cedar Rapids and Christian started work at AEGON. Fong put his career on hold to attend Dartmouth, earning his MBA. He and his family returned to Cedar Rapids, where they reside today and attend River of Life Ministries church. When the floods of 2008 hit Cedar Rapids, Fong founded and still serves today as the CEO of Corridor Recovery, a non-profit flood relief organization that coordinated recovery efforts. The Fongs have three children.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

ChetChase 2010 – The Week

This week’s developments in Iowa’s race for governor.

1. Vander Poll— TheIowaRepublican.com continued releasing tasty tidbits from its  612-part poll, including numbers that showBob Vander Plaats leading the big ‘ol field of GOP hopefuls and potential hopefuls. Vander Plaats got support from 46 percent of Republicans polled, followed by Don’t Know at 27 percent and state Rep. Christopher Rants at 14 percent.

Vander Plaats was happy to grab front-runner status. John Deeth says that’s good news for Culver. Bleeding Heartland says, not so fast, it’s too early to be doing any anointing.

The TIR poll also showed Vander Plaats and Rants within striking distanceof Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in early head-to-head match ups. Culver led Vander Plaats 48-39 and beat Rants 46-36.

2. Parental Supervision— Republican candidate Christian Fong announced this week that Marlys Popma, a veteran Republican activist, will be guiding his upstart campaign.

The good news is that Popma lends some conservative heft to Fong’s fledgling effort. She’s got church cred with the religious right and could help Fong convince some skeptical conservatives that he’s the real deal, even though he contributed to a few Dems and says Republicans shouldn’t emphasize the whole gay marriage thing.

Popma also worked for Phil Gramm, Gary Bauer and John McCain, so she doesn’t always pick a winner.

3. Republican Roberts Reveals Readiness — State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, has called a Statehouse press conference Tuesday, apparently to jump into the governor’s race. He’s an ordained minister who has served five terms in the House. And he promises to add a dose of much-needed alliteration to the campaign.

4. Fallon Out of Lug Love — Former state rep. and failed governor/congressional candidate Ed Fallon says Culver is in trouble unless he dances cheek-to-cheek with the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Some flowers might also be nice. Maybe a spa day.

Fallon contends Culver has sidestepped issues such as campaign finance reform that are important to liberals. Fallon also contends that although it’s nice to be important, it’s also important to make your former rivals feel important.  He laid out his arguments in an an op-ed piece:

Few leading Iowa Democrats will admit it publicly, but Governor Culver is in deep trouble. If something doesn’t change, and soon, he could be the first incumbent Iowa Governor ousted from office since Norman Erbe lost to Harold Hughes in 1962.

Gov. Erbe could not be reached for comment.

5. Nostalgia Polling— TheIowaRepublican also jumped in the wayback machine, releasing polls on how a 2006 rematch between Culver and Republican Jim Nussle would look today. They also matched up Culver against former Gov. Terry Branstad. There’s been some buzz lately that Branstad might try for a comeback.

Culver edged Nussle, but a Branstad reunion tour pasted Culver 53-37.

That gave me the idea to do some legacy polling of my own. This week, you can vote in the Republican and Democratic nostalgia primaries. Next week, the general election.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Thursday Column — In with a tweet, and lots of questions

So Christian Fong couldn’t wait.

The Republican Cedar Rapids marketing executive kicked off his run for governor with a Twitter tweet. Contrast that with the last GOP nominee, Jim Nussle, who entered the 2006 race with glitzy fanfare usually reserved for presidential hopefuls. We’ve gone from bunting and balloon drops to 140 characters on my BlackBerry.

Nussle burst in with the stature of a congressional power-broker known far and wide. Fong, 32, looks as if he’s still growing into his suit. He’s well-known and well-regarded locally. Elsewhere, he’s a question mark.

And questions swirl. Will Republicans send someone born in the days of disco to the big dance, to go toe-to-toe with the Big Lug? Can Fong’s bid to make history, as the youngest governor and the son of a Chinese immigrant, overcome his troubling lack of an electoral history? Can he convince the agitated right that “progressive conservative” isn’t shorthand for a squishy moderate who contributed bucks to Democrats?

Can a guy whose name rhymes with “wrong” weather the shots he’ll get from seasoned pols eager to take him out?

And will Iowans make a blogger governor?

Many candidates blog. Most offer small treats. Fong blogs in treatises.

Still, for a fresh face, there’s plenty of boilerplate. There are calls for investments and zones and a task force on tax policy. Big government is “too often the problem.” Teachers should be paid more if they meet higher standards. Rural schools are great. Marriage is between one man and one woman.

It’s not all bad. Just not all new. But there are glimpses into how Fong might shake things up.

He warns against practicing single-issue, ideological politics and urges the rejection of a “bizarre stream of conservatism that values ideological loyalty above all.” Fong decries labeling opponents as “extremist” in what he calls a “playground insult war.”

He might want to share that with one of his top backers, Iowans for Tax Relief chief Ed Failor Jr., who recently told a GOP crowd the Democrats’ agenda is Nazi-like.

Fong toes the party line on marriage, but he also wrote this before the Legislature adjourned: “The GOP needs to stop playing political games. Their frantic calls for a marriage amendment, ‘or it’s too late,’ are counterfactual to the realities of how the constitutional process works … let me suggest that turning a moral issue into a political chip is both disrespectful to the people involved and trivializes an important debate.”

But will he say that at a Sioux County soup supper? We’ll have to wait and see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized