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.