2010 Iowa GOP gubernatorial candidates take stage

The Iowa Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidates for 2010 will share the stage this evening.  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was the keynote speaker for this event and he finished shortly after seven o’clock.  Next, each of the gubernatorial candidates will be given 10 minutes behind the microphone.

The first to speak: State Senator Jerry Behn of Boone.  He discusses the GOP victories in the VA & NJ races this past Tuesday.  “We need to stick to our principles and we can win.”  Behn notes exit poll data indicates jobs and the economy were the number one issues for voters in those two states.

Behn’s biggest applause line was a hit at the Democrat who is currently governor:  “We need to practice our ABCs and that’s Anybody But Culver.”

Behn closes by asking the crowd to vote in 2010 against retaining the judges on the Iowa Supreme Court (all of whom joined in the majority opinion which legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa).

“Vote no on retention,” Behn said.  “I promise you that will be a shot heard round the world.”

At 7:30 p.m., former Governor Terry Branstad enters and he begins by reading from prepared remarks, his head down for much of the opening as there’s no teleprompter.

“It’s great to be back and I’m back, raring to go.  I’m here because I care about Iowa.  I believe we can do better,” Branstad said at the start.

Branstad seems to stumble when mentioning that some have questioned whether he has “lost a few….steps.”  Branstad regains his compose, adding more loudly: “…Let me tell you, my fervor has not waned.  The fire in my belly is still burning bright.”

Branstad mentions his recent retirement from his job as president of Des Moines University, and the “Draft Branstad” movement.

“Iowa is broke and they trust me to fix it,” Branstad said, to some applause. “…We all know Iowans that are hurting…and our current governor and the Democratic legislature fiddle while our state burns…This bunch is bent on destroying jobs at the very time we need them the most.”

He pauses, then lambasts the I-JOBS program.

“…Too much debt is bad and those that create it should be thrown out of office,” Branstad said, to some applause,

“We know that it doesn’t have to be this way,” Branstad said.

(I failed to mention there are Branstad posters being waved by some folks in the room.)

“…Today, my heart aches for Iowa,” Branstad said, lambasting Culver and the Democratically-led legislature.  Later, Branstad mentions the film office fiasco — “frittering away our taxdollars on Hollywood luxury limos.”

Branstad next says he supports giving Iowans the right to vote on a state constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage in Iowa. There seems to be a pause, but no applause.

“I will work to break the roadblock in the Iowa legislature that prevents it,” Branstad said.

“…Iowans have had enough,” Branstad said, adding that with the help of the people in the room, the Democrats at the statehouse will be kicked to the curb and replaced by Republicans.

“…I’m fired up and I’m ready to lead the charge,” Branstad said. “…”Iowans are ready for leadership they can trust, leadership that will solve problems….It’s a time for all of us to rise up and retake and remake our state and with your help we will do it.”  There’s a bit of applause.

Branstad calls himself a “proud conservative” and a “Ronald Reagan Republican.”  Branstad adds that he will abide by an oft-quoted Reagan Rule about party infighting.  “I will not attack any of the other candidates,” Branstad said.

He’s heading to conclusion.

“I can tell you, I will comfortably and wholeheartedly support whoever is the nominee of this party for governor in 2010,” Branstad said.

“…For my part, I intend to work hard to earn your support and I will do it with enthusiasm because I love this state…and I believe, with your help, we can see a state that will be, again, balanced with a budget balanced on generally accepted accounting priniciples…Are you ready to see that happen?  I am.  Let’s roll.  Thank you very much.”

Bob Vander Plaats is next. “Officially, let me welcome Governor Branstad to the race,” he says, to begin, the tells a campaign trail story about running into a Democrat (or a Democrat nearly running into him) who intends to support his candidacy in 2010.

Vander Plaats next takes a nearly straight-on verbal smack at Branstad.  “Are we going to take the road of moderation, or are we going to take the road with conservative values?” Vander Plaats asks the crowd.  (Some Vander Plaats supporters are waving placards.)

Vander Plaats offered his analysis of the VA & NJ races, saying the candidates “stood for the sanctity” of human life and traditional marriage.

“That’s how they won, because they stood firm,  I think we can learn a lot from them on how we can win in 2010,” Vander Plaats said.

Vander Plaats then ventures into some of his standard stump speech.

He concludes by returning to the idea that Branstad’s candidacy has been pushed by party insiders.  “If we’re going to win, it needs to be about ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Establishment,'” Vander Plaats says.

Next, Vander Plaats suggests all the people in his administration will share his “core values” — he adds: “including our lieutenant governor.”  That is a reference to Branstad’s lieutenant governor, Joy Corning, who was pro-choice.

Speech over.  State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll is next.  He calls the GOP crew of candidates “six great guys.  any one of us would be a far greater governor for the state of Iowa than Chet Culver.”

Roberts asserts the economy will be a key issue in 2010. “Friends, we’d better focus on the economy.  It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Roberts said.

Roberts mentioned his races in his legislative district and his ability to attract votes from Independents and “conservative-minded Democrats” — adding that Republicans need to nominate a candidate who can appeal to those segments of the electorate:  “Defeating Chet Culver is the ultimate goal, after all.”

Christian Fong, a businessman from Cedar Rapids, is the next candidate to speak.

“I honor those that have gone before me tonight and I honor those who have gone before me in years past,” Fong said when he stepped behind the microphone, then he began telling his personal story.

Fong is the son of an immigrant from China.  “I’m proud to be a Fong Republican,” Fong said.  The crowd laughed.

Fong repeated something he’s said before, about tyrants and their cruelty adding:  “I’m not saying President Obama is a communist.  What I am saying is that every generation must stand up for the blessings of liberty.”

Fong mentioned his father’s flight from China to America.  “A legal immigrant, I should add,” Fong said, to laughter and applause.  “My father did it right.”

Fong added that Iowa “cannot be a sanctuary state to illegal immigrants.”

“That’s right, ” a man in the back yells.

“We have to celebrate legal immigration, whether they come from across the seas, or maybe from Nebraska,” Fong said, to laughter.  (His father, the Chinese immigrant, met a Nebraska farm girl; they married and settled in Underwood, Iowa.)

“I grew up in a poor family,” Fong said, telling more of his personal story.

Next, Fong asserts Iowa should become the “boom” state of the Midwest. “We have all the ingredients to get there,” he said.

Fong talked about the 2008 flooding in Cedar Rapids, accusing the Culver administration of “betraying” flood victims with a tardy

“I’m the first candidate born after Roe v Wade.  Allow me to take this a little bit personally,” Fong said, adding a “third of my generation” is missing because of abortion.

Fong next advocates a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Iowa.

Fong goes back to economic issues.  “Eighty-five of our counties really haven’t recovered from the Farm Crisis,” Fong says. “…Let’s leave no county behind.”

Fong throws this sentence in:  “We can fully eliminate the state income tax.”  That’s all he says about the proposal.

The evening’s final speaker: State Representative Chris Rants of Sioux City.  He takes the stage at 8:20 p.m.

“Good evening.  I want to let you know I bring you some good news and some bad news.  I’m your final speaker for the evening.  The bad news is I’m still speaking,” Rants says to open.

Rants tells the crowd he’s going to tell a few stories.  He begins with a story about Sergeant Bluff (a story we wrote about this week at Radio Iowa — about Patty Judge, Chet Culver & the I-JOBS program).

“It (the story above) encapsulates everything that is going wrong in state government today,” Rants says.  “The bonding and budgeting fiasco in Des Moines is going to raise taxes on every single Iowan.”

Rants says he’s been to 45 different counties this year as he rides the campaign trail.  He promises to focus on reducing property taxes.  “That is the exact opposite of where Chet Culver is taking this state.”

Rants says Republicans need to think about HOW they’re going to win.  “I spent a lot of time thinking about that,” Rants says, mentioning he attended the Iowa Tea Party Statewide Convention earlier this afternoon.

“There were more people in Hy-Vee Hall today than are here in this room tonight,” Rants says.

Dead, heavy silence as that sinks in — Rants lets the pause get pregnant.

“The things, folks, that they’re looking for….is leadership,” Rants says.  “…It’s not about talking the talk.  It’s about walking the walk….That’s part of the reason why Republicans have lost the last couple of election cycles.”

Rants throws out a couple of concrete suggestions to cut the state budget, first: eliminating state funding for preschool. “We, as Republicans, ought to say that’s a way we can save $53 mililon in the state budget.”

Rants suggests there is plenty of room to cut in local government.

“I think we need to tell people what we’re going to do,” Rants says.  “…We can streamline local government.

“…If we want to win those folks back I think we need to be honest…and a slogan or a soundbite are not the answer they’re looking for.”

Rants closed by asking that the people in the room “pray for your Republican” candidates.  “We all need a little guiding hand at time,” Rants says.  “…Whomever you elect as governor can’t do it alone.  The job is too big for one person.  The only way we make any of these big changes is by all of us working together.”

At 8:33 p.m., show is over.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


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